Published by: Orion Children's Books, 14th April 2022
Monday 28 March 2022
Published by: Orion Children's Books, 14th April 2022
Published by: Nosy Crow, 7th April, 2022
Publishing on 7th April is this third fabulous novel from Nizrana Farook. Following on from The Girl Who Stole An Elephant and The Boy Who Met a Whale, this is probably my favourite of the three - and I love them all - due to its fast pace, rich setting and satisfying resolution.
Selvi enjoys spending her days alone, climbing the mountains of her island home, Serendib, often accompanied by Lokka, a wild leopard. But when she stumbles across an illegal poaching ring, who are determined to ensnare Lokka for his extraordinary coat, Selvi must act fast if she wants to save her beloved friend.
Struggling alone, Selvi begins to open up to her classmates. Soon she's surrounded by children who want to help. But can they get to Lokka in time and who is really responsible for his capture?
This is the second animal adventure novel I've read this month and they are quickly becoming one my favourite genres. Just like in The Lost Whale by Hannah Gold and Levi Pinfold, The Girl Who Lost a Leopard focuses on a child's extraordinary bond with a beautiful wild creature and explores how that bond helps them deal with their internal struggles. However, whereas the pace of The Lost Whale bobs along like the tide, building to a brilliant and tense dramatic climax in the same way a whale breaches the surface of the ocean, this novel is pacier from the off, the short chapters often ending in tense cliff-hanger endings that had me gripped.
The connecting link between all of Nizrana Farook's novels is the setting. The fictional island of Serendib, part of Sri Lanka, hosts all three stories and yet each time we are exposed to a completely different part of the island- the city, the coast and now the jungle covered mountains- making each one feel fresh and different. The plot has more twists and turns than a mountain path and the twist at the end is particularly brilliant. Selvi proves herself to be another strong and determined female lead but I also love her vulnerability and her burgeoning friendships prove particularly touching.
As with The Lost Whale, the novel emcompasses a serious ecological message without being didactic and the discussion Selvi has with her teacher and classmates about poaching is one of my favourite scenes in the book. There's also themes of friendship, family, loyalty, morality, made all the more beautiful by Lokka's blazing presence. It's heartwarming, nail-biting but, best of all, empowering and I can't wait to see it on the shelves in April.
A big thanks to Netgalley and Nosy Crow for allowing me a review copy. The Girl Who Lost a Leopard is now available to pre-order.
Thursday 24 March 2022
Hello and welcome to our stop on the blog tour of Perfectly Weird, Perfectly You - a non-fiction guide to growing up that explores abstract, difficult-to-understand concepts, such as emotions and peer pressure, by comparing them to concrete science.Link to publisher
Published by: Wren and Rook Books, Hachette, 17th March 2022
On a personal level, this new release by Dr. Camilla Pang has come at exactly the right time for our family and one of the reasons why I jumped at the chance to be involved with the blog tour. With an eleven-year-old autistic daughter approaching puberty, I have no idea how to even begin explaining the complexities of growing up to her. And yet, through this insightful and wonderfully illustrated piece of non-fiction, Dr. Camilla Pang has shared her own experience of how she coped with this metamorphis as someone who received an diagnosis of autism, aged 8.
By applying what she couldn't understand to what she could - science - Pang forged a survival guide to growing up, allowing herself to embrace who she was, which in turn, of course, leads to a much higher chance of finding happiness. And, as readers will discover, embracing who we are includes the process of accepting all the 'weird' quirks and foibles that makes us unique, but which are actually perfectly normal.
Chapter of the books include:
Perfectly calm: How to manage your emotions like the weather.
Perfectly digital: Can computers teach us how to think?
Perfectly new: How animal migration helps us to cope with change.
The font and format of the book is easily accessible and chunked into bitesize paragraphs that will allow readers to dip in and out without feeling daunted. I love Camilla Pang's introduction to herself at the start of the book and the relatable way she talks about her diagnosis, harnessing autism as 'her superpower' and highlighting both the positives and the challenges that arise from being neurodivergent. But the most fascinating aspect of the book, which I was enthralled by and which I can't wait to discuss with all of my children, are the analogies Pang makes between consistent science (the type of science that is all around us and helps us make sense of the world) and abstract human behaviours. For example:
Why does a human always turn the volume up when their favourite song comes on the radio?- Well, why does a plant always turn towards the sunlight?
Why are some people drawn to others in a positive or negative way?- Well, let's think about the forces of gravity and magnetism and also how various metals react with different liquids and gases. Some get on and some don't!
Each chapter of the book, led by Camilla Pang's own narrative voice, explores these analogies in more depth. Each one is explained beautifully and simply and made me realise how much I, as a neurotypical reader, relate to what is being described and how much I use my own analogies in day to day life to interpret, rationalise and understand things that confuse me. It is an absolutely fascinating read for any young reader, especially those struggling with the complexities of growing and maturing and those changeable human relationships.
Wren and Rook Books produce brilliant non-fiction for children and this is no exception. Not only will I be drawing on it to approach these tricky topics with my daughter, I'll be sharing it with my other children, nephews, cousins, friend's children and the adults too!
Perfectly Weird, Perfectly You was published on 17th March 2022 and is available to buy now. A big thanks to Hachette for asking me to be part of the blog tour.
Tuesday 22 March 2022
Wednesday 16 March 2022
Link to publisher
Published by: Hachette, 17th March 2022
Boiling the kettle and settling down with a cosy cuppa to read felt particularly apt as I began the first book in this new fantasy MG series. For, just when you think you've read everything to do with witches, here comes Yesterday Crumb - a tea witch in the making - with a story that will blow you away but which also feels like a 'hug in a mug'.
Yesterday Crumb has grown up in a circus cage, ridiculed for her fox ears with no idea who she is. But when a witch's familiar breaks her out, Yesterday discovers not only that she's a strangeling, but that the evil Mr. Weep wants to destroy her new life.
Taken in by a magical tea witch Miss. Dumpling, Yesterday starts to explore her powers. But with Mr. Weep's hold over her growing stronger and her witch's license in danger of being refused, Yesterday must summon a storm and fight for her life.
This is magical fantasy at its best and a wonderful new take on a witch story. Andy Sagar's imagination is second to none, the characters are gorgeous and the tea and cake is...well, simply sublime! For me, the plot combined a nod to some of the best stories in children's literature - The Snow Queen, The Wizard of Oz, The House with Chicken Legs and even Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy - with something truly fresh and orginal. Dwimmerly End feels like a cosy, safe version of Hansel and Gretel's gingerbread house and Miss. Dumpling is possibly my new favourite character of all time.
The story is charm personified but not too sugary sweet. Like a lot of Yesterday's brews, it has a bitter edge to it which makes the plot compelling and addictive. Yesterday is endearing and timid but, as she comes to the boil (in Miss. Dumpling's words), she unleashes a daring dark side with a tornado of power. The word building is wonderful and again mixes cosy fluffiness with shadow and shade, heartbreak and grief. In my personal opinion, though, it is the magical tea brewing which is the star of the show and the USP that will make me first in the queue to refill my teacup the moment the sequel comes out.
So if you're looking for a marvellous, magical tale that balances comforting charm with danger and adventure, then this is the book for you. Brew the tea, cut the cake and snuggle down for a real treat!
Yesterday Crumb is released in the UK tomorrow, March 17th 2022. A huge thanks to Netgalley and Hachette for allowing me a review copy.
Friday 11 March 2022
Heavens Above! There ought to be a thunderclap announcing the arrival of the second book in this BRILLIANT series. Rainbow Grey is DEFINITELY the book I wanted to read as a child. With cloud creatures, magical eyes and a black-and-white-haired villain to rival Cruella de Vil, Laura Ellen Anderson has one of the most magical imaginations I've ever encountered...
Rainbow Grey is getting used to life as the only rainbow weatherling in the Weatherlands. But a storm is brewing. Cloud creatures are disappearing and, despite the blame pointing towards Ray herself, some mysterious magical eyes suggest that a darker force is at work. Surely Tornadia Twist, the worst rogue that's ever lived. can't be behind it...can she?
There simply aren't enough advectives to describe this book. It's joyful, vibrant, magical and floofy (my favourite new word) and yet dastardly too. There's scorching stakes, a whirlwind of drama, lightening bolt revelations and slowly melting mysteries. Then there are the characters (think World Book Day costumes). Ray is a stand-out heroine, as colourful as her hair and as beautiful on the inside as a rainbow is on the outside, but it's the whole ensemble that makes the book shine like the most glorious summer's day. Without Droplett's constant puddle porting and Snowden's endless drizzle-pickle sandwiches, the Weatherlands would be rather more overcast. Oh, and then there's hilarious, adorable but clever Nim, shining star La Blaze and the arrival of a love-to-hate baddy.
The story is certainly as unpredictable as the British weather. You might think you have the plot all mapped out but it's twistier than a tornado itself. And, just like the British weather can experience a whole host of weathers in one day, this has ALL the feels: laughter, tears, surprise - just watch out for La Blaze's shining moment for it might catch you offguard like an unexpected downpour.
As well as being highly entertaining and fun, there are some big themes running throughout this book: friendship, prejudice, being yourself, bravery and sacrifice all feature heavily and are handled brilliantly. One thing's for certain, you'll be so busy talking about this new adventure, you'll have no time to discuss the weather...well...not the British weather anyway.
Rainbow Grey: Eye of the Storm is out now and available to buy online and from your local independent retailer.
Saturday 5 March 2022
Wednesday 2 March 2022
Another month has gone in a blur and the stirrings of spring are around us. As we say goodbye to winter, here are more of the books that have been keeping us entertained through the colder months.
Frank and Bert by Chris Naylor-BallesterosLink to publisher
Published by: Nosy Crow, 3rd Feb 2022
The author of The Suitcase released a new picture book this month with loveable characters, an important message and a relatable game of hide-and-seek. Perfect for both children at the younger and older end of the picture book market, this endearing tale of friendship definitely warmed up our hearts this winter.
Frank and Bert love to play hide-and-seek but Bert isn't as good at playing as he thinks he is. As Frank takes the winner's crown yet again, he makes a decision. Does winning really matter...?
With fun illustrations enhancing the story on every page, this is a book young children will want to read again and again whilst providing comedy value for any adult reader who has ever played hide-and-seek with a toddler. Bert's size may be a hindrance but, with Frank as a friend, he's got every chance of success...and he may just have a cheeky trick up his sleeve too.
This is a great text to use in an early year's classroom. As well as a strong PHSE theme, the additional counting element links to the maths curriculum. There's some clues to unravel and some knitting to try out. You never know, it might just win you the game...or not!
Mayor Bunny's Chocolate Town by Elys DolanLink to BookNookBookshop
Published by: Oxford University Press, 3rd Feb 2022
Brilliantly funny, this character-led sequel to Mr. Bunny's Chocolate Factory literally made us laugh-out-loud. With bunnies and chickens and chocolate and elections, you might be fooled into thinking that it's an Easter themed book. Fret not! Although this would make a cracking seasonal story, it's message is perfect for any time of year.
Vote Bunny! Mr. Bunny wants to be mayor and the first item on his agenda is making a whole town out of chocolate. But rival chicken, Debbie, thinks that's a crackpot idea. Who will win the vote? And will Coop Town end up in meltdown?
This book is the perfect example of an author-illustrator who can combine text and illustrations to create something truly special. The visuals are stunning, the text is sharp and hilarious and every page is a feast for the eyes. The plot is fabulously entertaining and with so many speech bubbles, it is impossible to get bored - the reading experience is different every time!
Although little ones will love the characters and the visuals, the plot, message and length of this story might be more suited to the higher end of the picture book market. It's a great introduction to democracy and decision making, an ingenious platform for children to express their ideas and opinions and also brilliant for discussing the concept of 'playing fair'. It's a bigger treat than chocolate!
Greta and the Ghost Hunters by Sam Copeland, illustrated by Sarah Horne
Published by: Penguin, Jan 2022
With the hugely successful Charlie Changes Into A Chicken series
already in the bag, followed by the fantastically funny Uma and the
Answer to Almost Everything last year, this new release from Sam
Copeland was one of my most highly anticipated reads for 2022. It doesn't
disappoint. This laugh-out-loud novel is not only 'dead funny', it also has the
tremendous heart that we've come to expect from Sam Copeland’s novels.
When Greta is knocked down by a car and almost dies, her life changes
instantaneously. Now, she can not only see ghosts, she can speak to them. But
the ghosts in her house are in danger of being exorcised and if Greta can stop
that from happening, will the ghosts help Greta stop her grandmother from being
put in a home?
Firstly, the characters in this novel are brilliant! Greta is a
strong-minded yet shaken protagonist who has a truly touching relationship with
her grandmother. Grandpa Woebegone’s sarcastic tongue had me in stitches and
Percy melted my heart. Then there are Greta's outrageous family and the hilarious narrator, whose gives us our
daily dose of toilet humour by recounting his explosive historical antics.
As always, Sam Copeland has the incredible ability to make readers snort with laughter one minute and wipe away tears the next. Woven into the slapstick humour are the hugely important and mammoth themes of death, grief, anxiety and family. For me, the winning and most poignant line is delivered by Percy…but I won’t spoil it for you. Just take my word for it that, at the end of the novel, this crazy yet endearing household will feel like family. Coupled with the fabulous and comedic illustrations from Sarah Horne, this is a book that has earned a lasting place on my bookshelf. I laughed, I cried…and er…some characters died!
Published by: Chicken House, Feb 2022
On a similar comedic playing field to the novel above, the second in the
series of Vi Spy, written by comedy legend, Maz Evans, was released at
the beginning of February. Published by Chicken House, this is a stonker of a spy novel and a gazillion times funnier than 007!
Valentine Day has a lot on her plate! She's failing at spy school, her family is in crisis and her evil nemesis is still at large. It looks like she's going to have to enlist some help if she going to get to the bottom of who Umbra really is...but are her suspicions correct?
There's certainly nothing subtle about this novel. It's big, bold, brash and nothing short of brilliant. The fabulous characters- from the strong minded Easter Day, to the rather whiffy Siren to the new girl, Missy Fit- are spoofy and hilarious but, boy, do you want them on your side! Then there's the high-stake plot, the devastating mistakes, Vi's determination-it's a thriller from start to finish!
The humour is smash-you-over-the-head-with-a-sledgehammer type funny. There's body odour and farts, cheesy gags, snappy dialogue and a shedload of awesome satire. My favourite without a doubt was the portrayal of Missy Fit's stationery brand and Rod and his scooter is just comedy gold. Yet, as with Sam Copeland's Greta and the Ghost Hunters, Maz Evans explores complex issues with tenderness and heart: relationships, family, identity, success - all the things your average reader has to deal with, whether they are a wannabee spy or not. And yet, it's such a shame that funny books don't seem to get the recognition they deserve because this is seriously skilled writing and one of the most entertaining series I've read in a long time.
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