#MGTakesOnThursday – Skunk and Badger

#MGTakesOnThursday was created by Mary over at Book Craic and is a brilliant way to shout about some brilliant MG books!

To join in, all you need to do is:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen, published by Scholastic

Anyone who knows me will surely know by now what a huge Jon Klassen fan I am, so I can’t lie when I say I picked this up based solely on his illustrations.

But I’m so glad I did, as I absolutely loved it. It’s one of those books that’s a bit quirky and refuses to sit neatly in any kind of category – age, genre or otherwise – and I love it all the more for that.

Badger is a creature of habit, living an almost reclusive life in the house Aunt Luna has kindly let him stay in to pursue his career in rocks. The living room is his Rock Room, given over to the study of them, and Badger is happy in his rather set and solitary ways.

Until Skunk arrives.

Skunk is everything Badger isn’t – outgoing, friendly and wanting to experience everything. He throws Badger’s world upside down with his deliciously extravagant breakfasts (no more cold cereal and milk), chicken parties in the Rock Room, philosophical bedtime stories (so clever!) and general upheaval!

Badger is sure that Skunk can’t stay (although those breakfasts are delicious, and the stories are good, and the chickens are actually a likeable bunch…) and things come to a head.

Lets just say, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

This is a simply wonderful story with everything from chickens to quantum physics, roasted peppers to Shakespeare and a truly fantastic chicken-run bookshop (that only features briefly but that I would love to see a whole book set in!).

And of course, the illustrations are fantastic. Unmistakably Klassen, they complement this completely unique book superbly. Even the endpapers are lovely. It’s a truly beautifully presented gift of a book.

As well as being a perfect bedtime read, Badger and Skunk would make a lovely, quirky KS2 class read. Short enough to squeeze in easily but with plenty of meat on its bones for talking about, sowing a seed or pondering.

My favourite quote from page 11:

“Badger raced in front of Skunk and said what needed to be said: ‘Oh, you’re that Skunk! Come in, come in! It’s so good to finally meet you!”

This book in three words(ish)

Unlikely friendships, comfort zones…& chickens!

Peapod’s Picks – All Sorts of Lost Property!

I’ve talked briefly about The Lost Property Office by Emily Rand before, but we’ve revisited it this week as I popped it in Peapod’s downstairs book basket near the trains he’s been playing with and he’s really taken to it.

As luck would have it, I’d also just bought another Emily Rand book – All Sorts (this time illustrated by her and written by Pippa Goodhart) – after Mathew Tobin posted about it on Twitter, and he’s really enjoying that too.

So, it’s an Emily Rand double today.

The Lost Property Office is a lovely story which sees a little girl leaving her teddy on the train, and I’ll be honest we don’t always get much further than this page when reading it!

Peapod is fascinated by this part of the story, pointing out the teddy on the train and saying they’ve left him, then “Choo-Choo! Gone!”

Please excuse my morning hair!!

When we do manage to read on, we see the little girl staying at her Grandpa’s overnight (with a teddy who’s just not the same) and dreaming of finding her Teddy – along with lots of other long lost belongings.

This is a simply wonderful spread and I challenge anyone not to start hunting for the objects listed in the glorious jumble Emily has created!

And it’s these pages and those at the Lost Property Office I love best about the book.

There’s so many different things to spot, find, talk about and notice – it’ll never get boring! Collections of things the same but not quite, oddities and the everyday all jumbled in together and several “how could anyone lose that?!”s!

One of those books you’ll see something new in every time.

And the same can be said of All Sorts, perhaps even more so.

Frankie likes to sort things. She sorts all sorts of things in fact. But when it comes to people, things get trickier and she starts to realise that sometimes things are best all mixed up.

With minimal text, a lovely message and an upbeat vibe, this is a lovely book to share and Emily Rand’s gorgeous illustrations really sing.

There is something ever so satisfying and aesthetically pleasing about the sorted objects, and yet the unsorted assortments are just as appealing!

And, as with The Lost Property Office, I really love her portrayals of everyday life and people. They always seem so real and I love that they have a distinctly urban feel too.

Two truly brilliant books. Perfect for poring over and super for sharing! Bring on more Emily Rand!

WWW Wednesday 16/9/20

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday.

What are you currently reading?

The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar

I have only read the first chapter but I have really taken to the writing style, which is, usually my biggest deciding factor, so I think this will get a big thumbs up.

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by LD Lapinski

I know I’m late to the party here, but better late than never! I’ve only just started this too but I think I’m going to enjoy it.

The Sinclair’s Mysteries: The Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine, audiobook read by Jessica Preddy

I’m nearing the end of this now and while I didn’t love it as much as the first book, I have still enjoyed it and I can’t wait to see how it ends.

What have you just finished reading?

Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Absolutely brilliant. You can read my review of it here.

Eight Pieces of Silva by Patrice Lawrence

I wasn’t sold on this in the end. Patrice’s writing was as pitch perfect as ever – written with a real knowledge and understanding of her readers, and with believable characters and a setting dye clearly knows well. However the story itself didn’t work for me.

Wrecked by Louisa Reid

Louisa is a local author so I squeezed this book in as soon as it came into work and I really enjoyed it. A verse novel (which you know I always love!) about Joe, his corrosive relationship with Imogen and the awful place it leads him to. Review to follow, but highly recommend!

What will you read next?

It’ll be a while before I finish most of these and my TBR seems to be changing (and growing!) daily so we’ll see…

Have you read any of these?

What are you currently reading?

Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow

I was lucky enough to request and receive a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

Nevermoor: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Before we go any further, all you really need to know is: this book is A-MAZING!

But that wouldn’t make for much of a review on its own, would it, so…

This is the third book in the absolutely fantastic Nevermoor series. If you haven’t read books one and two (where have you been?!) stop reading immediately and go and read them now.

I realised on writing this that I reviewed book one before I had my blog, so I’ve posted it here belatedly. And I’m not sure where my Wundersmith review went but let’s blame that on new baby craziness and just know that it was every bit as good, if not better, than book one.

And the same can most definitely be said of Hollowpox.

We rejoin Morrigan in her second year as a member of the Wundrous Society and see her beginning to learn more about the Wretched (or Wundrous) Arts in a most brilliantly devised and captivating way, as she is helped to try and harness, master and diversify her powers as a Wundersmith, whilst simultaneously struggling to keep her Wundersmith status under wraps outside of WunSoc – something which proves increasingly challenging as the story unfolds.

We are introduced to a new, third part of WunSoc, which is every bit as intriguing, magical and atmospheric as we’ve come to expect from Jessica’s settings and we’re introduced to some great new characters and typically WunSoc style secrets too.

But of course, things couldn’t go smoothly for long. And in an eerily prescient way (for the book was written way before this year’s Covid 19 pandemic), we see a deadly ‘virus’ sweeping through the Wunimals of Nevermoor, turning them into Unnimals on the rampage, with no sense of their human sides left and a compulsion to attack.

As the attacks increase, panic spreads. No-one knows where the Hollowpox came from, how it spreads and there’s no cure. With curfews, closures and messages to “Stay Alert” it felt like a mirror for current times in many ways.

After attacking, the Wunimals left ‘hollow’ in a coma-like state but with seemingly nothing left inside, leading to increased debate in Nevermoor about who the victims of the Hollowpox are.

Indeed, it felt all too realistic and equally saddening to see the way in which the disease sees Wunimals blamed, with fellow citizens turning on them and the sparks of prejudice many carried against them already ignited.

There is an absolutely hilarious, but all too true quote about numpties which I will let you discover for yourselves but it summed up perfectly both Nevermoor in this crisis, and our own world too.

With twists, turns, blame and backstabbing, not to mention a race against time to beat the mysterious disease, this is already thrilling, shocking and thought-provoking. But then, of course, comes the return of Ezra Squall.

The last Wundersmith, banished from Nevermoor for his evil acts, he reappears to Morrigan on the Gossamer from the Wintersea Republic with a, deal to be done, and the plot well and truly thickens….

And that ending! Oh my god.

I loved everything about this.

As, ever, the characters are well-fleshed out and considered, and I especially liked how we dug a bit deeper with Squall in this book.

The inhabitants of Hotel Deucalion (including of course the hotel itself, which is one of my favourite ‘characters’ I think) are as fantastical, funny and fiercely loyal as ever.

The story itself is compelling and complex, with heavy doses of humour and gloriously magical moments, as well as messages of equality, kindness, courage and honesty which always run through this series.

And of course, it is breathtakingly imaginative, heart-stoppingly exciting, goose-bumpily (yes that’s a word!) observant. At once a wundrous escape from reality and an astute commentary on it.

Loved it, loved it, loved it. Need book four immediately.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

So, I thought I’d reviewed this way back when it came out but realised that I hadn’t started my blog them so had only reviewed it online.

Ahead of the imminent release of book three in the series, Hollowpox (my review is here) I thought I’d post my review of book one here too.

I received a reading copy of this in exchange for review and while I knew it was the sort of story I’d enjoy, I just wasn’t prepared for how much I’d love it!

I was utterly hooked, pulled straight into the world of Nevermoor and still stubbornly gripping my umbrella on the Brolly Rail refusing to get off at the end.
It was hailed as the next Harry Potter by pretty much everyone and with good reason. It does draw heavily on what has come before – a purportedly cursed child with a pre-determined fate, a villain hiding in the shadows supposedly banished from Nevermoor with ordinary folk scared to mention him, a heavy dose of magic and friendships forged between a variety of ‘misfit’ type characters.
But, and it is a big BUT as this is where it moves away from the many other magic-adventure-type books written post-Potter: Jessica Townsend’s writing transforms this into so much more than a wannabe-HP: despite it’s obvious similarities, it feels fresh, unique and new.

The imagination that has gone into creating Nevermoor and the thought that has gone into detailing and describing its weird and wonderful features (not least the fantastic Hotel Deucalion, which I would happily handover a month’s pay packet to stay at for a night or two!) is truly wonderful: it is vibrant, bursting with life and sucks you right in.
The characters are charming, funny and believable. Morrigan is a perfect ‘heroine’ – at times insecure, at time courageous, but always loyal – I was relieved that she was also ‘real’ enough to be likeable.

Jupiter is zingy, zany and full of verve, his self-assured, confident manor the perfect balance to Morigan’s self-doubt.

Hawthorne brings humour, daring and warmth as the sort of sidekick anyone would want. And so the list goes on…all the characters bring something else to the story, none seem gratuitous.
The story itself zips along through the darkness of the Hunt of Smoke and Shadows and the elusive Mr Jones; the vivid colour of Nevermoor itself – the Hallowmas and Christmas celebrations in particular; the nerves, tenacity and adventure throughout the Trials (like others the Book Trial made me smile, but it was the witches in the Fright Trial I loved best).

It’s a book you don’t want to reach the end of – I can’t wait for the next instalment!

#MGTakesOnThursday…sort of…!

#MGTakesOnThursday was created by Mary over at Book Craic and is a brilliant way to shout about some brilliant MG books!

To join in, all you need to do is:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

So, “#MGTakesOnThursday…sort of?” I hear you ask. Well, I’m cheating this week. Mary, I’m sorry! But I’ve gone rogue (but only this one week, I promise!)

Because this week I haven’t chosen an MG book at all. I’ve chosen…*whispers*…a picture book.

This is a great picture book for any age and younger children will love it of course, BUT it’s one I think has so much potential for use in KS2 so I’m throwing it in here like the maverick that I am! (Promise to follow the rules again next week!)

The Misadventures of Frederick by Ben Manley, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, published by Two Hoots

This book cracked me up. Written in the form of notes and letters between the titular Frederick and free spirit Emily who sees him in his window one day and sends a paper aeroplane up to invite him out to play.

Unfortunately, Frederick is reminded by his mother of the misfortune that struck last time he went for ice cream so he reluctantly, and ever so eloquently, turns Emily down.

Emily is persistent though. Each day, she embarks on a glorious new outdoor adventure – exploring, climbing, swimming – and invites poor cooped up Frederick to accompany her.

Each day, he sends a beautifully written reply declining her offer, reflecting on the calamaties of the past.

And the ending is simply superb! Predictable yet not, it is a fittingly funny end to a super story!

The illustrations are fantastic – delicately detailed and full of the pleasure getting out in the open can bring. I loved how Frederick’s indoor play cleverly mirrors Emily’s escapades outside, but with strikingly different colour palettes and Frederick’s expression and body language vs Emily’s making clear that its really not the same thing!

The use of colour and the way it gradually creeps into Frederick’s pages is very clever, as is the way we see the wild slowly infiltrating Frederick’s refusals and drawing him in (or should that be out?!)

And the expression and emotion in the images is deftly drawn too – from disappointment to joy, wistfulness to abandon.

So, why am I showing you this instead of a typical ‘middle grade’ book?

Because I think as much as younger readers will enjoy this, it’s older readers who’ll really get it. And there is so much to be done with this, for younger readers too, but also for older.

The language for a start.

Frederick’s letters are a scream – fantastically formal and flowery, they are the perfect contrast to Emily’s brief, informal notes. Both would be brilliant to use for looking at letter writing (or email or communication in general!) and the difference between formal and informal tones, as well as for descriptive writing.

Getting kids to write their own formal rsvps with funny or dramatic reasons would be great.

There’s also the paper aeroplanes – get in an afternoon of plane making, paper folding, trial and error, test and hypothesise, measuring, timing and team work.

Then of course there’s the outdoor elements. OK, you probably can’t take them out for a dip in a local lake but take the opportunity to have an outdoor adventure or two – den building, orienteering, scavenger hunting…

This book in three words:

Clever. Funny. Outdoorsy.

My favourite sentence from page 11:

I’d love to know if any of you decide to use or read this book with older children.

Normal service will resume next week!

Peapod’s Picks – An Alphabetty Botty Book!

Oi Aardvark! by Kes Gray and Jim Field

The latests in the Oi! series, and its just as good as ever. Frog has decided to write his own alphabet book, and its the funniest alphabet book you’ll ever read!

In his Alphabetty Botty Book (and honestly, what child isn’t going to live that title?!) Frog has decided to give animals that still have nowhere to sit somewhere to park their derrieres, one (or in some cases several!) for each letter of the alphabet.

Frog is as confident and bossy as ever, with Cat remaining their usual resigned and superior self, and there are some classic Dog moments too (not least in the very funny ending!)

Fans of Kes Gray’s ‘You’re Called What?!’ will be pleased to find a plethora of lesser known (or certainly lesser mentioned!) creatures included, with pangolins, quolls and uakaris for starters.

Peapod likes that “pigeons sit on wigeons”, joyfully repeating “pidge-widge! Pidge-widge!” at this point, but his favourites are definitely the jays (after seeing one on a walk once, we must hunt for them on every walk now!) and, of course, the kudu sat on doo-doo, which he (and surely every other toddler who reads this) finds hilarious -” Poo! Sit in poo!”

For my part, I giggle at the iguanas sat on piranhas (“they’ll bite their bottoms!” – I don’t know where Peapod gets it from!) and love the big fold out spread from Q to W. If I still taught early years, I would definitely have ended up buying multiple copies of this to turn it into an alphabet strip for my wall!

As bright and bold, as delightfully daft and as completely comical as you’d expect from this series. Just when you think they can’t possibly find anywhere else to go with it, they take it in a new direction and deliver all over again. Fab!

P. S. You can read our reviews of Oi Cat and Oi Duck-Billed Platypus here and here!

WWW Wednesday 9/9/20

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday.

What are you currently reading?

Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

It is AMAZING!! That is all.

Eight Pieces of Silva by Patrice Lawrence

I’m really enjoying this so far – pacy, mysterious and one of those books you want to read ‘just a, few more pages’ each time you pick it up.

The Sinclair’s Mysteries: The Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine, audiobook read by Jessica Preddy

I’ve only just started this and I want to throttle all the vacuous debutantes! But I can tell its going to be another great mystery!

What have you just finished reading?

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

This was fantastic, I loved it. It was a great reminder to me of why I should read more adult fiction snd what it is I love about it. Clever, real, funny, honest and running a whole gamut of experience and emotion. Such a great book.

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine, audiobook read by Jessica Preddy

I really enjoyed this, its a shame I can’t squeeze in the physical copies of this series as I’d definitely prefer them to the audio, but I enjoyed it nevertheless! Plus, I had my suspicions about the thief and for once I was right!

What will you read next?

I’m so spoilt for choice at the moment. There are SO MANY books I want to read! But probably

Netgalley – Witch by Finbar Hawkins

PhysicalHere is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan/The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell

Audiobook – The Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine

Have you read any of these?

What are you currently reading?

Peapod’s Picks – Shout, shout, let it all out!

Earworm for the day sorted? Let’s get on with the review…!

I’ve been big fans of this series from Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti ever since I Really Want the Cake came out in summer 2017 (how on earth is that book 3 years old?!) Peapod took just as much of a shine to it as I did and it has remained one of his favourites. You can read our review of it here.

While that is definitely our favourite of the three, we also love I Really Want to Win (our review is here) and both of these, along with the newest addition I Really Want to Shout are being read every night at bedtime at the moment.

I Really Want to Shout by Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti

I Really Want to Shout follows the same format at the previous books; written in the same brilliantly rhythmic, rhyming text that makes for a really fun and expressive read aloud, our protagonist is once again struggling – this time with finding a way to deal with anger and frustration.

She’s as likeable as ever, desperately trying to do the right thing, she of course lands herself in more trouble instead. You can’t help but feel for her as, she struggles against these daily misunderstandings, injustices and hardships.

I was also really pleased to see, her new friend from book two make a reappearance as she’s such a great character and acts as a calming, caring and helpful influence on our hot-headed MC, without being in any way dull or preachy.

And the same can be said of the book as a whole. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t do picture books with morals and messages and whatnot, so when I saw this one was about feelings I was hesitant, I admit.

But it’s done SO WELL, with such a lot of warmth and humour. Lucia’s expressive, energetic and playful images and Simon’s balance of sensitivity and a knowing wit are perfectly paired yet again.

I especially love the way the adults in the book feature. Anyone who cares for young children can’t fail to smile on seeing the girl’s parents not only trying to help her deal with her emotions, but trying to suppress their own frustrations too!

This is so clever, adding plenty of laughs – for children and adults alike – but also finding a subtle way to show young readers that even adults struggle with their emotions sometimes too.

Similarly, there’s plenty of ideas in the book for finding ways to calm down or keep your cool, but they’re an integral part of the story too so don’t feel contrived or shoe-horned in at all.

This is a marvellously insightful and observant book, with much to love, not just for children but for adults too.

There were several spreads which I really connected with, as both the mother of a two year old (we both really want to shout often!!) and just as me.

Oh, this page. It knows me.

And, as ever, there’s a satisfying and brilliantly upbeat and laugh out loud ending too.

For children (and adults!) who find feelings frustrating and hard to manage, or just as a thoroughly enjoyable read aloud story (Peapod has no idea what’s going on, but he loves it nonetheless – “SHOUT!”), this is brilliant.

Funny, sensitive and full of understanding, with exuberant images that are a joy to look through – it’s more than lived up to expectations and our only worry is…they can’t stop at three, can they? Our friend will be back again we hope?!

WWW Wednesday 2/9/20

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday.

What are you currently reading?

Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

I’m so, so lucky to have an advance copy of this. I started it yesterday and it is every bit as brilliant as expected.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

I’m really into this now. It’s taking me a while but it’s such a fantastic and thought provoking book.

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine, audiobook read by Jessica Preddy

I’m nearing the end and loving this!

What have you just finished reading?

The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes

I really enjoyed this. You can read my review here.

Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin Tsang.

I wasn’t sold on this before I read it, though I couldn’t say why (especially since I love a dragon!)…and I’m sorry to say I’m not that sold on it after reading it either, though I still can’t really say why. I think some books just don’t grab you.
It was a solid MG fantasy with some interesting and original ideas. It just wasn’t really one for me.

What will you read next?

I’m so spoilt for choice at the moment. There are SO MANY books I want to read! But probably

Netgalley – Witch by Finbar Hawkins

PhysicalHere is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan

Audiobook – The Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine

Have you read any of these?

What are you currently reading?