WWW Wednesday 8/9/21

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday and asks:

What are you currently reading?

What have you just finished reading?

What will you read next?

So, what am I currently reading?

Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood-Hargrave and Tom de Freston

I cannot tell you how much I am loving this book. Firstly it is a thing of absolute beauty – the artwork, design and finish are stunning and the highest quality and the story itself is equally wonderful. I cannot recommend this highly enough.

A Dinosaur Ate My Sister by Pooja Puri and Alan Fatimaharan

Those of you who know me won’t be surprised to hear that I wasn’t really looking forward to this one, but it’s actually a lot better than I’d expected. There’s a great mix of science, adventure and humour with a pace that never let’s up. The informal first person narrative with interruptions, crossing outs and varying font size and style for effect combined with funny illustrations make this a lively read that feels like a great bridge from shorter chapter books to longer and would be perfect for fans of Wimpy Kid style books.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callander, audiobook read by Logan Rozos.

I’m enjoying this. While it’s been fairly easy to predict where it’s going so far, I do find Felix an interesting, compelling (though not altogether likeable) character and his ongoing struggles with both his identity and others’ reactions to it feels both believable and important to see in teen fiction.

The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

This actually turned out to be an enjoyable read and I was planning to finish it. However, my annual insane reading challenge has arrived so I’ve had to pause at the end of part one – to be continued…

What have you just finished reading?

Nightfall in New York by Katherine Woodfine

This was simply joyous with a brilliant setting, all our favourite characters and cameos and a perfect ending.

Grimwood by Nadia Shireen

We are big fans of Billy in our house, so I was super excited to read Nadia’s first early chapter book offering and I wasn’t disappointed. Characteristically her in style, it’s brilliantly bonkers, loads of fun and has plenty of heart.

What will you read next?

Probably Secret Detectives and The Upper World but it may change…

Have you read any of these?
What are you reading at the moment?

Peapod’s Picture Book Picks – a catch up!

We were lucky enough to request and receive copies of these free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

Well, it’s been a while since our last Picture Book Picks post and we’ve been lucky to be gifted several fantastic books since then, so it’s a round up of some of those today…

First up is The Cat and the Rat and the Hat by Em Lynas and Matt Hunt, published by Nosy Crow

Cat wants Rat’s hat. And they’re going all out to get it…until they both spot Bat with an even fancier cravat…then it’s chaos as Cat chases Rat chases Bat chases…

Zingy, zany, neon illustratuins, tongue-twisting, rhyming text and a chaotic caper that kids will love. The ending is both funny and satisfying, while the build up is increasingly frenetic and full of slapstick-style visual giggles!

Plenty of opportunities for speedy-reading, shouting, chasing and general exuberance – not one for bedtime, this is a perfect stimulus for chasing games and fun – grab your hats!

You Can’t Take an Elephant on Holiday by Patricia Cleveland-Peck and David Tazzyman, published by Bloomsbury

The fourth book in this riotous rhyming series sees a variety of wild animals set off on their holidays with disastrous consequences!

Peapod loves seeing the rhino run away with the tent, while I love the coolness of the orangutan catching a wave, and we both enjoy roaring like the tour guide lion!

We read this at storytime too, and the silly scenarios were met with plenty of giggles there too – piranhas in your paddling pool anyone?!

I only hope the elephant from this book and the bear from book one never meet – there’d be one hell of a fight for the ice cream!

There is no Big Bad Wolf in This Story by Lou Carter and Deborah Allwright, published by Bloomsbury

We were especially excited to be sent a copy of this one, as we absolutely love There Is No Dragon in this Story (you can read our review of it here) and this was a great follow up!

In what is a genius hook, Wolf is fed up of trying to make time for being in two stories at once!

Luckily Dragon is all too willing to step in (I really loved the way this linked back to book one, raising a smile for Dragon’s existing fans, but completely readable to anyone unfamiliar with book one too!)

Unluckily, it turns out dragons are not the best choice for huffing and puffing, but can Wolf be convinced to come back?

This is a wonderful book, full of favourite characters, friendship and fun. With a gentle reminder to stop our rushing and to ask for help if we’re overwhelmed, it’s a lovely story of looking out for our friends and working together that’s full of humour too.

Kate on the Case

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.

Kate on the Case written and illustrated by Hannah Peck, published by Picadilly Press

Those of you who know me or have read this blog for a while will probably know I’m a big fan of MG mysteries, so I was really excited to see a shorter, highly illustrated mystery appear aimed at younger or less confident readers.

Having loved Sylvia Bishop’s Secrets of the Night Train and MG Leonard and Sam Sedgman’s Adventures on Trains books, I was doubly excited to see this was a mystery on a train!

And it was brilliant! A perfect mix of mystery, humour and warmth which flies along at pace.

Kate and her dad are travelling to see her mum when circumstances take a turn for the suspicious! Missing ginger nuts, stolen scrolls and taken trophies – Special Correspondent Kate (and super sidekick Rupert the mouse) waste no time in beginning an investigation and prime suspect is the truly horrid Madame Maud!

However, there’s a twist in the tale and an absolutely grrrrrrrrreat one at that!

With a larger than life cast, slapstick silliness (shout out to Simon, Conductor-in-Training ) and sharp wit, expressive, lively illustrations and bold orange and black palette throughout – this is truly a delight and I can’t wait for Katie’s next case!

WWW Wednesday 1/9/21

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday and asks:

What are you currently reading?

What have you just finished reading?

What will you read next?

So, what am I currently reading?

Nightfall in New York by Katherine Woodfine

I’m still really enjoying this! Love how many of the cast from throughout the series are popping up, especially the much hoped for return of a familiar face.

The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

This is our fiction book of the month in work so I’m giving it a go, but it’s not my usual thing so I might just read a couple of chapters and move on… We’ll see…

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callander, audiobook read by Logan Rozos.

I don’t read much contemporary teen, but I’m really enjoying this so far.

What have you just finished reading?

The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey

This was fine but forgettable. I didn’t hate it but honestly I just didn’t really care.

The Unexpected Tale of Bastien Bonlivre by Clare Povey

The best thing I can say about this is that I’ve finished it. Definitely not one for me.

What will you read next?

Kidnap in the Caribbean is high on the list for our next Mystery Society read along. Otherwise it’ll be a lucky pick from the toppling TBR tower…!

Have you read any of these?
What are you reading at the moment?

Mystery Society Present…Marlin Mysteries Marathon – Dead Man’s Cove

The Mystery Society is made up of myself, Lily over at Lily And the Fae and Amy at Golden Books Girl. We decided to buddy read The Laura Marlin Mysteries as we’re all big fans of MG mysteries, but I’d never read these and Lily and Amy were keen to revisit them.

So, we were all approaching Dead Man’s Cove from different starting points; Lily had read it before but wanted to revisit it; Amy has read it multiple times as it’s one of her all-time favourite books; and I had never read it!

These different starting points have given us all different perspectives and take aways, which has been really interesting to see so make sure to visit Amy and Lily’s blogs too – marvel at Lily’s gorgeous casebook here and be filled with the infectious joy of Amy’s love for this book here!

Dead Man’s Cove by Lauren St John, illustrated by David Dean, published by Hachette.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable tale of intrigue and secrets on the Cornish coast.

While I’ve never been to Cornwall, I felt this conjured an image of it splendidly; the beaches, cliffs and bays; the rain and waves and sunshine; the mix of locals, tourists and the relating shops and cafes; the seafront houses and fishing boats… I felt like I was exploring it all alongside Laura, who herself is new to the town.

Until now, she’s grown up in Sylvan Meadows Children’s Home, when she’s not been moving from one foster family to another, after the death of her mother.

While this was only a very small part of the story, I loved the little details thst allowed us to see Laura’s life had been far from easy but that neither had she grown up in a cruel and punishing orphanage with a villain of an owner (which, if you know me, will know is one of my most detested MG tropes!)

Instead, the staff are caring and she is looked after. It’s no family home and no one’s first choice, but it felt refreshing to see a fictional child in care who was being treated properly and not scrubbing toilets and eating gruel.

Anyway, rant over! Even from this early part of the story, it was made very clear that Laura was capable, ambitious and curious – traits which would stand her in good stead when she moved in with her mysterious Uncle Calvin.

Calvin is a great character. There’s a sense of secrecy and a buried past that immediately sets us to wondering, and not just us but Laura too. But never did I worry this secret past was nefarious; the way he is with Laura and the way their relationship develops is lovely to read.

His housekeeper on the other hand…! Well, just as great a character for the complete opposite reasons! Mrs Webb is suspicious with a capital S! And not very likeable at all!

And so Laura begins to settle in but is seemingly surrounded by mysteries – what is Calvin hiding? What was Mrs Webb looking at? And what’s the deal with Tariq and the Mukhtars?

Mr and Mrs Mukhtar own the local shop, with Tariq working there most days. Laura and Tariq slowly begin to make friends, despite Tariq’s silence and apparent poor grasp of English, until he suddenly no longer wants to be friends…

And so she unwittingly stumbles into an adventure, filled with messages in bottles, smuggling rings and clandestine midnight outings on the coastal path.

I loved the secret message scenarios that began with the message in a bottle – so creative and intriguing, it was one of my favourite things about the book.

I also thought the way Lauren St John manages to bring together local geographical and historical themes like fishing and smuggling with modern slavery, immigration and gangs. It was refreshing to see these themes tackled in a more rural setting and they’re touched on in such a careful way for young readers.

I really loved the way these themes were gradually unveiled too. There were hints throughout but not eniugh to completely figure it out and the final reveal when the delivery was made was brilliant!

Overall, this has the feel of a classic mystery adventure, but with much more modern characters and themes. Laura is a great main character and, while I don’t quite share Amy’s passion for Calvin, he’s up there with MMU’s Felix or Adventures on Trains’ Nat for most excellent MG adult support role! Plus, dogs. If you like dogs, there are some canine companions you’ll love too.

I’m very much looking forward to Kidnap in the Caribbean!

Have you read the Laura Marlin Mysteries?

WWW Wednesday 25/8/21

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday and asks:

What are you currently reading?

What have you just finished reading?

What will you read next?

So, what am I currently reading?

Nightfall in New York by Katherine Woodfine

I’m not very far into this but I am LOVING it already. I read the rest of these as audiobooks and while I enjoyed the stories I really didn’t get on with the narration so I’m really glad to be reading this as a print version, I’m enjoying it all the more for it!

The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey

This is only short but it’s taking me a while as I’m only reading a few pages at a time in the evenings. I think I’m enjoying it but honestly I’m not really sure!

The Unexpected Tale of Bastien Bonlivre by Clare Povey

I’m reading this for work and honestly so far I am not enjoying it! Please cross your fingers it improves…!

What have you just finished reading?

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, audiobook read by Santino Fontana

While I haven’t loved the narration, I did get used to it, and I’ve really enjoyed the book and seeing the beginnings of Coriolanus Snow. He was a character I wasn’t that fussed about in the grand scheme of the original trilogy but I found him fascinating here and loved the re-emergence of a certain other character in his history too.

Amari and the Night Brothers by BB Alston

I really enjoyed re-reading this, just as exciting and captivating as the first time round!

The False Rose by Jakob Wegelius

Loved, loved, LOVED it! Every bit as brilliant as The Murderer’s Ape! I really hope this won’t be the last we see of Sally Jones!

Laura Marlin Mysteries: Dead Man’s Cove by Lauren St John

I read this as part of the Mystery Society read along with Amy and Lily. We’re all following up our read with posts about it. You can read Amy’s here and Lily’s here, and mine will be posted on Friday!

What will you read next?

I need to choose an audiobook. I feel like I had a couple I was planning on but I’ve forgotten so I need to pick something to listen to!

I think the other books I’m reading will take a while so I’m not sure what’ll follow them yet…

Have you read any of these?
What are you reading at the moment?

The Adventure Club – Red Panda Rescue

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

The Adventure Club: Red Panda Rescue by Jess Butterworth, illustrated by Kirsti Beautyman, published by Hachette

This is a perfect read for animal loving children and bidding environmentalists. I’m a big fan of Jess Butterworth’s books for older children’s, so I had high hopes for this and wasn’t in the least disappointed!

As expected, she has brought us a story which deals with both environmental and ‘real life’ issues sensitively and age-appropriately, with heaps of nature, excitement and adventure to boot!

Tilly has just moved house and started a new school. She’s nervous and unsure about making new friends, but very excited about a competition to win a week in Nepal finding out about red pandas and how to protect them. The only problem is she’s got to write about an adventure, and she’s never done anything brave or exciting…has she?

Written in the first person as Tilly’s journal entries and thoughts, this has a really believable voice and feels perfectly pitched to its audience. This combination of notes, bullet points, longer passages of text and illustrations also makes this really easy to read, and to ‘stop and start’ (though I confess, I couldn’t stop!) giving it plenty of appeal for readers ready for a chapter book but put off by pages full of text.

This style of narration also really helped us to gently explore Tilly’s worries and nerves and showed how she dealt with and overcame them in a really positive and reassuring way.

Likewise, Jess’ love of nature and animals always shines through in her books and no more so than here, as we explore Nepal with Tilly (having read Running on the Roof of the World, I was so pleased to revisit the Himalayas with Jess – it’s clearly an area she knows and loves!).

From the yaks to the mountains to the momos, there is an authenticity to it all and Tilly’s excitement about all her new encounters is utterly infectious!

I also loved that it was rooted in fact. We learn a great deal about the red pandas and their home from Tilly’s notes, and it’s clear there’s no cuddling up to them or far-fetched abilities – Tilly’s yak ride being a case in point!

Kirsti Beautyman illustrations add to this perfectly too, with lots of expression, warmth and appeal but a sense of realism too. They really enhance Tilly’s descriptions and help readers to visualise her experiences.

Indeed, between plane flights across the world, camping under the stars with strange noises outside, snow leopard sightings, difficult river crossings and evidence of poachers not to mention new schools, new friends and new experiences this is packed full of adventure and excitement and fires the imagination beautifully!

This is a brilliant start to what promises to be a fantastic new animal adventure series for young readers! I can’t wait to see where Tilly takes us next!

Jill Murphy Memories

Image from Puffin (@PuffinBooks)

I began writing a tweet on Friday when I saw the news about Jill Murphy’s death. That tweet soon rambled on beyond any kind of sensible sort of brief celebration, condolence or commemoration and so it became this post instead…

On Thursday, we went to a wedding. Peapod had the longest, busiest day imaginable filled with new scenarios and people.

Fast forward to Friday morning, which saw us sat in a busy hotel reception, snuggled onto a chair sharing A Quiet Night In, completely in our own world, completely absorbed, completely happy. It was lovely.

Fast forward again to just a few hours later. We’re travelling home and I see the sad news that Jill Murphy has died from cancer aged 72.

It felt weird that we’d been reading her book only hours earlier, but it wasn’t really; after all, we’re often reading one of her books! Peapod loves the Large family, as I did too when I was growing up reading them with my mum, who also loves them.

And while Peapod loves seeing Mr and Mrs Large fall asleep before the children in A Quiet Night In; or Mrs Large going out for the night blissfully unaware of the paint on her bottom in All in One Piece (I cannot tell you how funny he finds this!); or the children tailing her round the house and taking over her bath in Five Minutes Peace, it’s as an adult, and even more so as a parent, that I’ve found a whole new level of love for these books.

Jill Murphy wrote with such knowing and such warm understanding of the life of both child and parent, and her books (especially the Large family and the Bears in Peace at Last) are hugely relatable to both adult and child, specifically from a parental point of view those moments of exhaustion, frustration; that complex mix of fierce love and loyalty but desperation for a break.

Never do we doubt their devotion, but we’re always allowed to see them as a real family, not some unattainable perfectionist idea of one. A rare thing indeed.

So, we’re all big fans of the Large family and the Bears (and even my sister who never really caught our Jill Murphy bug returned to The Last Noo Noo over and over again), but it is Claire who really holds our hearts.

My mum and I read On the Way Home over and over again when I was little, from a repeatedly borrowed library copy to our own much loved one later. It remains one of “our books” to this day, and one of my all time, absolute favourite picture books.

So of course it’s one I was thrilled to see Peapod take a shine to as well. He is frequently to be found ‘being’ Claire and getting us to ask about his bad knee…!

A very old pic of Peapod reading it! I don’t have any more recent and to be honest, the place he plays it most now is with his people in the bath!

And then, of course there’s The Worst Witch. Mildred and Maud were childhood favourites (I can’t lie, Tim Curry, Fairuza Balk and Diana Rigg helped); I devoured the Worst Witch books – a perfect mix of humour, under-dog-ness and spells!

Ethel Hallow being turned into a pig remains one of my finest literary moments, and my mum’s annual outing as Miss Hardbroom for World Book Day is a find memory (as is the year she branched out and went as Maud instead!)

My battered well loved copies of these are at my mums!

Are you a Jill Murphy fan? Did you read these growing up? Which is your favourite of her books?

WWW Wednesday 4/8/21

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday and asks:

What are you currently reading?

What have you just finished reading?

What will you read next?

What am I currently reading?

Well, I finally feel a bit more like my old self when it comes to reading and blogging. I posted my first review in over a month yesterday and while I think there’s still a way to go to be back at full speed, it’s nice to feel like I’m getting back on track!

What am I currently reading?

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, audiobook read by Santino Fontana

The change in narration has taken a bit of getting used to after listening to Tatiana Maslany read the original Hunger Games trilogy back to back them going straight to this. But that aside, I’m hooked on President Snow’s back story!

Amari and the Night Brothers by BB Alston

This is another re-read! It’s our book of the month in work and it felt like such a long time since I’d read it it seemed a good excuse to pick it up again!

Once Upon a Crime by Robin Stevens

It feels like such a treat to have one last hurrah with the Detective Society! I’ve read the first in this collection of mini -mysteries and it’s pure Daisy and Hazel joy!

What have you just finished reading?

The Hunger Games #3 – Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, read by Tatiana Maslany

Although this was probably my least favourite of the trilogy, I did enjoy it and I was pleased with the ending.

Betty by Tiffany Mcdaniel

This is another of our books of the Month at work so I read it for that but utterly loved it. It is undoubtedly dark, with a list of trigger warnings almost longer than the book, but if you don’t mind that the beauty of it, the use of storytelling and the nature embedded in it make for a, stunning contrast to the darkness and an all round fantastic book.

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius

I’m nearing the end of my reread of this and I am utterly loving it all over again!

What will you read next?

Dead Man’s Cove and Once Upon a Crime for sure!

Have you read any of these?
What are you reading at the moment?

Between Sea and Sky

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.

Between Sea and Sky by Nicola Penfold, cover art by Kate Forrester, published by Little Tiger

In case you didn’t know, I absolutely loved Nicola’s first book, ‘Where the World Turns Wild’ (you can read my review here) and I have been looking forward to this ever since I finished that last spring!

Well, it didn’t disappoint.

As with Where the World Turns Wild, Between Sea and Sky is set in an all too possible future in which environmental disasters have resulted in a very different world to the one we know now.

Here, we see the aftermath of several natural disasters which have caused widespread flooding and destruction; life on land feels sterile, tightly monitored and strictly regimented.

Living in closely controlled, concrete compounds surrounded by silicone fields and ‘The Edible Uplands’, a man-made indoor ‘farm’, Nat and his friends know little about the world as it used to be nor the nature it used to be home too, with many species wiped out and no access to books, images or videos from the so-called Greedy Years.

But what Nat and his friends find at the old abandoned windmill (a forbidden place and the only pocket of anything remotely wild) sees them beginning to question just how ‘gone’ these creatures really are… Is there a chance there’s a recovery underway? Is finding out worth risking their families being punished and sent to the prison ship? And can Nat trust the two girls out at sea with his secret?

Pearl and Clover live with their Dad on a floating oyster farm, relatively free of the constraints of the land. Their life couldn’t be more different to Nat’s, surrounded as they are by marine life – porpoises, gulls, fish, geese, shells and seaweed… not to mention the wild ways of the weather they must be adept at reading and responding to – ice, fierce heat, crashing storms…

And while both girls love their outdoor life, Clover is beginning to yearn for more human contact too. She’s desperate to enrol in school on land, to make friends, to be ‘normal’, while Pearl embraces to solitude of life at sea and wants to go nowhere near the land, blaming it for her mother’s death.

So when Nat is begrudgingly sent to stay with them while his mother is there to conduct research, it’s a big adjustment for all and the dynamics of this are superbly written, emotionally charged but full of understanding.

His first meal aboard, his introduction to the whale and his swimming lessons especially feel so tenderly written – full of warmth, a gentle humour and sensitivity to the emotions running high among all three children, and the complete change Nat is faced withpl.

The use of dual narratives not only really helps us to empathise with the characters, really getting into their complex mix of feelings, but also highlights the stark contrast between land and sea so clearly; What we know of life on land amplifies the freedom and wildness of the sea, and what we know of life on the sea drives home the sheer lack of nature, the removal from it and manipulation of it, on land.

Pearl is raging with Nat’s arrival, desperate to protect both her unwell dad and illegal sister, while Clover is desperate to befriend him. Nat for his part is wary of his new surroundings but trying his hardest to make the best of things. And regardless of their feelings, it’s not long before events force them to put aside their differences and work together.

What follows is both a gripping environmental adventure filled with hope and a powerful exploration of feelings, friendship and family. It is a moving story which looks closely at grief and the ways in which we cope with it, but always with sensitivity. My heart went out to the characters but I was never without hope for them.

At the heart of the book is both the affinity between children and nature, and the determination, curiosity and bravery seemingly only found in the young; a new generation rallying against mistakes, injustices and poor decisions of the past to spark change. A more important, timely and empowering message there could not be in children’s literature today.

And what is abundantly clear is that while nature can undoubtedly be both powerful and unpredictable, it is also fragile, easily damaged and very much in our hands.

Likewise, the book also highlights our personal need for nature – its restorative powers; its ability to boost us or calm us and the a sense of perspective, stillness or wonder it instills.

Nicola’s own love of nature and passion for environmental issues and our responsibility for them is clear. The natural world she portrays is tangible – the sun beat down on me; the salt water sprayed me; the mudflats oozes between my toes; the sea stretched ahead of me, sparkling in the sunlight; the storm battered me.

And I absolutely loved the wishings. I can’t even express the joy they gave me; there is a feeling in my gut only. They spoke to me, to the finder and the wisher and the dreamer in me I suppose. One of the finest compliments I ever received from a friend was that I “notice all the small things” around us, and I think it’s this part of me that treasures finding feathers and pebbles and shells and flowers and… that loved the mudlarking.

The transformation of this into a ritual that both connected the girls to their mother, to the land, the sea, to the past and the future was perfect. I loved the magical quality it had, as well as the conversations and exploration of how/if the wishings work and how this changed for Pearl and Clover. And no spoilers but the way this was incorporated into the ending was PERFECT!

Well, if you haven’t guessed by now – I loved this! Both a tense and thought-provoking environmental adventure, and a moving look at loss, family and friendship. The characters are complex and utterly believable (I thought Pearl especially was so brilliantly written) and the settings – and all the emotions that accompany them – vividly depicted. An absolute must-read.