Where the World Turns Wild

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.

Where the World Turns Wild by Nicola Penfold, illustrated by Kate Forrester

Lily, Amy and Mary all got to this first, and all both loved it and knew I would too, and they were so right! In fact it’s one if those books I’m going to struggle to review because finding the words to talk about why I liked it so much feels impossible, but I shall try!

As the climate crisis worsened and humans did more and more damage to the environment, it became clear that neither they nor it could survive much longer.

A small group of environmental campaigners, the ReWilders, release a tick which causes an awful, and fatal, illness killing millions and sending the remaining population into walled cities.

Stay with me if you’re currently thinking “this doesn’t sound like a hopeful MG book with moments of joy and natural wonder.” It is, we just haven’t got there yet.

Juniper and Bear live with their Grandmother, Annie Rose, inside one of these walled cities, but they are misfits, outsiders (literally as they are almost unique in having been born in the wild to Rewilder parents) and they yearn for nature in this place where it is forbidden. There is no real weather, and no flora or fauna save for cacti; any living thing which does make it in is destroyed and even books and images featuring nature are banned.

The plan has always been to try to reunite with their parents one day, but that day comes sooner than expected and the siblings embark on a difficult and dangerous journey into the unknown.

Oh this book.

I don’t know where to begin. I simultaneously have SO MUCH I want to say but can’t find the words or the coherence to do it justice. Suffice to say, in short – it is beautifully written, utterly plausible, terrifying and important, yet utterly hopeful, joyous and uplifting too.

First off, I should note that this book had me in the early pages when Nicola described Juniper reading an old dictionary and looking up words on the thesaurus, “changing them for others words…crafting and recrafting”, which transported me so immediately and wholly to my story-writing childhood with a battered Roget’s Thesaurus by my side that I’d have five-starred this on the spot!

I appreciate this is a very subjective sliver of the book, but luckily what followed was just as visceral and captivating and I think it’s safe to say that unlike our dictionary episode, it won’t be just me who thinks so!

Following on from this though is the wonderfully evocative use of and clear love of language and words – from Juniper and Bear’s word game to the descriptions of wild creatures and plants from before/outside to detailing their journey, the writing is exceptional. Through the lightest of touches, humour, or simply the selection of exactly the right word at the right time, Nicola conjures an immersive and utterly believable world.

And it is terrifyingly believable, not to mention clever as it carefully treads a line between fiction and reality, between dystopia and an all too possible near-future, between places that are real and recognisable and something new and unknown. It somehow hammers home a dire warning without feeling in the least bit preachy or obvious.

The city is scarily uniform, controlling, regimented and confined. From the supposedly calming fractals to the curfews and border guards to the banned books and The Institute, its soon very clear not only how corrupt and wrong it is, but also how much we need nature for our mental health (even mud-fearing city-lovers like me!).

“Even after all that [the scientific reasons we need the Wild] You just need it. The Wild. You need to know it’s there.”

Then there is the Wild which we venture into as something unknown, and almost unknowable. Familiar plants and animals are described with wonder, puzzlement or, in the case of the nettles, a mixture of humour and fear! There is a ‘Lost Words’ feel to a lot of the natural world sections, with plants and animals described, named, categorised and listed, which is fine by me and a wonderful way to get all these words (and by extension then, the things themselves) into young minds. It felt like a retreat into nature itself.

Then there is The Buffer, the zone surrounding the city before The Wild begins. I will say nothing on this to avoid spoilers except – wow. What an impact.

I loved that Bear and Juniper’s journey felt almost impossible. They were travelling poorly dressed and poorly equipped after a hurried exit across unfamiliar terrain. It woukd have been easy, especially in a children’s book, to make this into a jolly adventure where foraging, fishing and found shelters save the day. But there’s none of that here and I’m glad. We’re exposed to the brutal realities of it and it’s hard.

Which brings us to Ghost, a lynx who becomes something of a companion, protector and guide to the children. I’ll be honest, I was hesitant about this aspect at first – I think Bear sums it up towards the end of the book when he suggests

“What if Ghost is actually an Ennerdale cat and has come to take us there?”

I think I was worried this was going to be what happened for a while, but I should have known better in a book like this that that would not have been the case and as it turned out I though Ghost’s part in the story – tender but always fiercely wild – was superbly executed and weaving in the tale of Romulus and Remus very clever.

Our human characters too were fantastic and oh so believable with all their realistic flaws, worries and emotions. For example, unlike many earnest, well-behaved younger siblings in stories, Bear felt like a sulky, impulsive, egotistical six year old (though utterly loveable and with a heart of absolute gold). The relationship between him and Juniper was fiercely loyal and incredibly close, but that’s not to say they didbt fight which was a relief!

I was so invested in this pair. There is one point in the book that became so tense, I just had to tweet! This really sums up how much I got behind the siblings, although I can’t say much about this particular part now as I don’t want to spoil anything!

And the characters we meet along the way are just as rich, rounded and – for the most part – likeable (even those that aren’t have a depth and complexity that makes them so much more than ‘bad guys’, except Portia Steel. She is just a bad guy. Full stop.) I loved Ms Endo, Annie Rose and the ‘Forest Folk’ and I can’t tell you how my heart broke for Etienne.

But that is, part of what I loved about this book – while it remained hopeful and positive, it pulled no punches and there were moments of real despair.

Well, if you have made it this far, well done! I know it’s been a long (and probably waffly) one that despite all that doesn’t come close to doing this book justice. An ode to nature, a warning to us all, an exciting but dark and perilous journey, a beautifully written book. I cannot wait to see what Nicola does next!

Love from the Crayons…

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.

This came into work timed for Valentines Day, but really it’s a gorgeous, fun little book that’d be a lovely present for a friend as much as a partner, or just for yourself if you’re a big fan of the crayons and Oliver Jeffers’ inimitable illustration as I am!

Each spread follows the same pattern of “love is…{a colour}because…”

Some are sweet and ever so slightly sentimental (though rest assured not much as you know I can’t be doing with that!)

Others feel more like the voice of experience providing food for thought.

And still others are hilariously honest

A book as full of character and humour as you’d expect from The Crayons, this is a perfect little, non-smushy way to show you care and/or make you smile.

Peapod’s Picks – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt!

Peapod’s Picks is a regular(ish) post featuring books Peapod has been enjoying – from favourite board books, noisy books and busy books to bedtime stories and books with props from his story baskets.

I’ve written about Peapod’s Spot story basket before. This is another basket that he’s really loved and it’s another classic…

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Bear Hunt turned 30 last year and after all that time and now a channel 4 animation too, I can’t imagine there’s many people who are unfamiliar with it. It’s truly a children’s bookshelf staple, both in homes and schools.

However, one should never assume, so just in case –

A family set out to find a bear, encountering all manner of terrain and weather along the way. They joyfully swish, splash and squelch through it until they find a cage and…a bear!! A hasty retreat ensues!

This is an absolute joy of a book – rhythmic, onamatopaeic and repetitive, it’s a gift for getting children joining in.

The ending is clever in this respect too as it places its demands on your memory and speed and you can’t help but finish it feeling as full of laughter, exhilarated and ready to collapse as if you’d really been out in the elements bear-hunting!

The hunt itself has both a freedom and a nostalgia about it – family walks and days out in nature. And then there’s Helen Oxenbury’s delightful illustrations which capture this so perfectly. They are so expressive and the use of both colour and black and white imagery is really effective.

It’s a book which demands action, performance and movement! It was one of the first story sessions I did when I went back to work after Mat Leave last summer and I made it an interactive one with movement and fabric, sensory bottles and bags, actions and lots of joining in.

So with these in mind, it seemed like a good choice for one of Peapod’s story baskets. I didn’t do it straight away as he still seemed a bit little for it, and I’m glad I waited as in the last couple of months he’s got loads from this (not least the phrase “uh-oh”!) and loves telling the story with it.

For the long and wavy, swishy-swashy grass, we have paper pom poms…

The deep, cold river is some splishy, splashy metallic ribbons. There’s also a blue sensory bottle.

I have to be honest, there’s no mud! When I did it at storytime, we used bags of mud to squelch but I can’t leave those in his basket long-term, so it’s actions only fir this bit unless anyone has a better idea?!

For the big, dark forest, we’ve got some pinecones to feel and roll and tap together etc.

We use both a sensory bottle and sparkly white fabric for our swirling, whirling snowstorm.

And the narrow, gloomy cave is of course a large piece of black fabric, perfect for hiding under, peeking out of…

…and finding a Bear inside of course!

Peapod loves this – from looking independently at the book to listening to us read it to acting it out with us and playing with all the tactile elements, especially ‘splashing’ through the river and finding bear in the cave. It’s a firm favourite and one I can’t wait to read and play o ce he’s old enough to really join in with the words too!

It’s a classic for a reason – such great fun!

If I had a…

We were lucky enough to request and receive a copy of If I Had A Sleepy Sloth from the publishers, which arrived with an unexpected bonus copy of If I Had a Dinosaur too! All views and opinions are my own.

We love both Samuel Drew Hasn’t a Clue and A Possum’s Tail by Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow, so I was very excited when these arrived in the post.

Although If I Had a Dinosaur has been out for a while, I’ve somehow missed it, so it was a lovely surprise when Thames Hudson sent both books.

Both feature the same little girl dreaming of a new pet – first a very big one and second a very chilled out one! She takes us through lots of funny, charming and appealing scenarios showing what it would be like, why it would be brilliant, and what they’d do together.

I also thought it was really lovely to see the careful consideration the girl gives to how she’d need to look after her pets too – feeding them, walking them and grooming them, with often very funny consequences that are depicted brilliantly with carefully chosen phrases and lots of visual humour.

They have such a wonderful voice and sense of fun, it’s easy to picture a chlld imagining all these wonderful times with an unusual pet, and I loved the inclusion of the classic ‘pet at school’ scenario too!

We’re big fans of Alex Barrow’s illustrations from the duo’s previous books, and these retain that style but feel brighter and bolder. This matches the stories and their sense of fun so well and definitely went down a treat with Peapod who has pored over them repeatedly.

Keep your eye on this irate lifeguard, he comes up later on…

In If I Had a Sleepy Sloth there’s lots of facts about the creatures dropped into the story too which I thought was brilliant and done really lightly and with a sense of fun.

Going hand in hand with that sense of fun is a warning – if you’re not a fan of toilet humour, these may not be for you (though really if you are reading picture books, I’m pretty sure there’s already a healthy dose of toilet humour in your life!) Dinosaur does an ENORMOUS poo and sloth wees on that angry lifeguard’s head! Both of which are sure to tickle the funny bones of small children everywhere!

Indeed, Peapod’s favourite page is the one in which our unfortunate lifesaver gets a soaking. He’s too little to get the wee joke, but thinks the picture is brilliant and I made the mistake of doing a funny fist-shake-and-cross-noise while reading it the first time and he now delights in pointing at the picture and then looking at his dad and I expectantly!

I also really like the sense of home and family in the books. Many of the pictures feature scenes of family life and, as well as bringing lots of humour to the story, they feel comforting and happy and secure.

Even the endpapers are gorgeous and Peapod loves them – his favourite thing is to pretend to count all the sloths!

While he loves both of them, Peapod’s favourite is definitely Sloth and, while I love them both too, I think I have to agree (I also love that there’s a copy of If I Had a Dinosaur and a Samuel Drew toy in the bedroom picture in If I Had a Sleepy Sloth!).

Regardless of preferences though, they are both excellent – funny, warm and great to read with hugely appealing and engaging illustrations. We’ll be reading them often for some time yet and I have no complaints about that!

Peapod’s Picks – Weekly Round Up 26/2/20

I posted the first of these last week. Peapod’s Weekly Round Up will be just that I hope – a chance to record what we’ve read at bedtime as well as any library books or board books and any he’s been particularly drawn to during the day.

What have we read at bedtime this week?

Aalfred and Aalbert by Morag Hood One of our favourites, you can read a review of it here.

Mr Wolf’s Pancakes by Jan Fearnley

We’ve read this several times now since Sunday. You can read our review here.

Hairy Maclary’s Caterwaul Caper and Hairy Maclary Scattercat by Lynley Dodd

We love a bit of Hairy Maclary! He’ll feature in an upcoming post so I won’t write too much here, but Peapod loved both of these, especially Caterwaul Caper with all the sounds!

And finally, definite favourites this week…

If I had a Dinosaur and If I had a Sleepy Sloth by Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow

I’ll post a review of these later today, but they have gone down an absolute treat, especially Sleepy Sloth, and have been on repeat all week!

WWW Wednesday 26/2/20

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday. I have been in a real reading lull this month. It’s felt so hard to find time to get through anything and as I try to stick to my goal of not ending up with a backlog of reviews waiting by not starting something new without getting a review or two done, I seem to have managed neither reading or reviewing! However, I have made some small progress this week. Better than nothing!

What are you currently reading?

Jungledrop by Abi Elphinstone As most of you will know by now what a huge Abi Elphinstone fan I am, I don’t even need to tell you how excited I am to be reading this! I haven’t started yet but it’s all ready to go! Shadowsea by Peter Bunzl (ebook) I’ve enjoyed the Cogheart series such a lot, and while this isn’t managing to outshone book 1 or Skycircus, I am enjoying it very much!

Little Women (and Good Wives), audiobook read by Christina Ricci I read a lot of children’s classics as a child (less so adult ones as I’ve got older), but this is one that never appealed to me. However, in my attempt to read/reread more of the children’s classics, including some I might not have chosen otherwise, and amidst the current hype for this I thought I’d hive it a go. And I was pleasantly surprised. I still have some of Good Wives to read, but I have been utterly swept up in this and absolutely loved it on the whole. There are some very preachy bits – so much of the book is a lesson on something as the girls grow up, which weirdly I didn’t mind too much, but so many of these experiences end with a lengthy sermon on their message abd this did grate at times. Likewise the religion in the book. Mostly, it’s not really mentioned but when it is it feels a bit much. Those minor gripes aside, and having taken a little while to get into and to accustom myself to Ricci’s narration, I’ve really become hooked! It’s a brilliant tale of family, growing up and the many daily trials and tribulations of childhood and adolescence and still so relatable on many respects today though of course a lot has changed. The characters are varied and flawed and their different personalities will appeal to different readers, though I know I’m not alone in thinking Jo is ace.

What have you just finished reading?

Where the World Turns Wild by Nicola Penfold

I loved this so much I was very nearly live tweeting my reading of it! (I managed to restrain myself until a particularly nail biting point!) Review in the next day or two!

What will you read next?

Well, all reading plans have been totally screwed by this month’s snail-like speed! I’ll dust off and regroup in a few days but next up as far as I can see will be Physical copy – Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day by Dominique Valente and/or The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal Ebook – I’m not sure, something else from February’s picks, though honestly I think I need to replan! Audiobook – I’m not sure what I need to follow 19hrs of Little Women! I might throw in a more modern classic before returning to the more traditional, older classics – Noughts and Crosses or Holes maybe… Have you read any of these? What are you currently reading?

Peapod’s Picks/KLTR – Pancakes

Peapod’s Picks is a regular(ish) post featuring books Peapod has been enjoying – from favourite board books, noisy books and busy books to bedtime stories and books with props from his story baskets. This week it’s also time for another #KLTR post, hosted by Book Bairn, Acorn Books and Laura’s Lovely Blog. Well, I’m sure I won’t be the only one posting about this today but as it’s pancake day, there’s only one book we could choose… I love Pancake Day. I know it has its religious aspects, but for me (like Christmas, Easter etc.) it’s a purely secular thing. We’ve always enjoyed the fun of flipping pancakes – will they turn, flop, twist or fall?! – and while I’m all about the lemon and sugar now, I have very fond memories of loading my pancakes with every sweet thing to hand when I was little. Likewise, when I was teaching we always had a wonderful pancake themed day in eyfs with real pancakes, pancake races, sensory play, role play etc. And this book was always a part of it! Mr Wolf is hungry for pancakes, but doesn’t know how to make them. Still, he sets out to try, hoping his neighbours might help. But, in this Little Red Hen-style tale, we see them all refuse – from Wee Willy Winky to the Three Little Pigs, Red Riding Hood to the Gingerbread Man, no one will help read the recipe, write his list, count his money or carry the ingredients. And they’re really rather mean about it too! Poor Mr Wolf isn’t deterred though. He works hard, figures it all out and with no small effort conjures up a pile of pancakes that smell deliciously inviting… Of course, now his neighbours want to help eat the pancakes, but what will Mr Wolf do? This is a fantastic twist on Little Red Hen tales, with a deliciously dark and satisfying ending that always makes me grin. The take on the Big Bad Wolf trope is lots of fun too and keeps you guessing as to the outcome and/or the possible reasons for his neighbours’ coolness towards him. As such, there’s also loads of scope for ‘what would you do?’ style discussions, though it’s just as good to simply listen to and enjoy the story! Similarly, it’s fun to see lots of familiar characters here, especially as they’re not as we’d normally expect to see them, and there’s lots of little details in the illustrations to make ya smile too – the scene at the shops is a favourite of mine. Since we had our Pancake Day on Sunday while we were all off to enjoy it, we read this first then and Peapod loved it too. In fact, it was the first book to break the run of his current repeat read, and only book allowed, at bedtime! He was straight to it the morning after and we read it last night too! He pointed out the pancakes and the page where Mr Wolf was flipping them, making the link to our pancake making earlier on in the day. Just as it was when I was teaching, I’m looking forward to this being one we can fet out as part of our pancake day year on year (and read at other times too of course)

Have you read this?

Do you have any pancake day traditions or favourite pancake toppings?

Five Minute Mum – Give Me Five

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.

Five Minute Mum – Give Me Five by Daisy Upton

I first heard about this as the author is local to the bookshop I work in and held her launch there.

She already has a successful blog where she has been sharing ideas like these for some time now. The basic premise being that they are quick and easy to set up and do – no fancy tools, poring over instructions or amazon spending sprees – just grab stuff you have and get going in under 5 minutes.

Honestly, I was sceptical of this at first. ‘Who needs a book for this?’ I thought. Surely this is one of those times when the internet wins – all these ideas are on her blog, and that’s just one of a wealth of blogs out there with ideas for play and learning activities. So why a book?

But then it arrived in work.

I was immediately impressed by the quality of it. By the clear layout and design; there’s a great balance between the colour and life in the photos, all of which make the activities look like a lot of fun, and the simplicity and clarity of the text, which is easy to read, follow and use ‘at a glance’.

Hmm. Maybe I was wrong.

But, these activities couldn’t really be that quick and easy, could they? I mean, everything that boasts this inevitably ends up in a shopping list the length of your arm, a frazzled afternoon setting stuff up and five minutes of uninterested play from them amidst pleas not to destroy or deface things and/or them excitedly taking it in another direction while you demonstrate exactly how it’s meant to be used.

But, yet again I was pleasantly surprised. I had a good look through and saw a huge range of activities, most of which needed nothing more than household objects and toys that are fairly interchangeable with other stuff if you don’t have them.

Some do ask for more specific things, but nothing that’d be expensive or hard to grab on the next supermarket run, and the activities often come with alternatives suggested. And again, they are so open to adaptation and interpretation there’s no real limits based on what ‘stuff’ you do or don’t have.

Likewise, they are really, really open to being adapted, reinvented, borrowed from and changed based on you and your kids – their ages, temperaments, interests, attention spans, knowledge bases etc.

All well and good, but the proof, I hear you say is in the pudding (yes, I also hear you muttering at the back that the actually the proof of the pudding is in the eating, but really who has time for that?!)

There is an age guide on each activity (1+, 2+ or 3+), though as I say, they’re easy to adapt up or down so these don’t need to be followed rigidly. We decided to try some of the more basic 1+ activities with Peapod at first, but have also ‘adapted down’ some of the 2+ ones and they’ve worked just as well!

I think most popular so far has been our variation on the Ball and Bucket activity. With the attention span of a gnat, the fewer rules the better for our little man – open ended still works best – so we got two boxes but rather than explicitly following the race rules of only using a set number of balls, transporting them in different ways etc, we just took the idea of using the spoon to move them and placed an empty box (substituted for the bucket because it’s what we had – easy, see!) nearby and let him have it.

I haven’t seen him so engrossed for so long in much else! We spent AGES carrying, balancing, throwing, tipping, pouring, collecting etc and again modelled colour names and counting as opportunities arose. This was an absolute hit and one we’ll be repeating.

Some of the activities were things we already do – teddy bear’s picnics, skittles and painting with water for example. While others were new ideas for things we already play – masking tape and handbags. And as someone who LOATHES tat, the tat boxes are inspired!!

There were also lots of activities in here that I was familiar with from my teaching days (it came as no surprise to me to learn Daisy used to work as a TA), and others that will be familiar on a wider basis (hopscotch, skittles etc) but the great thing about the book is it just gives you that reminder if them.

But this isn’t a bad thing! It’s a prompt when you’re too tired to think. A suggestion when your mind can stretch no further than old macdonald on repeat. A helpful way to do something you know but hadn’t thought of because that’s life with a toddler. Plus, there’s absolutely loads you won’t know too!

Having seen it and tried it and proved my initial doubts wrong, I also thought this book would go down well with a lot of the families who come into store and to our kids’ events and sessions too. So earlier this week we held a Give Me Five Stay and Play session – I set up a selection of the activities for our families to come in and explore.

And it was a huge success – the activities were all really popular, with different children preferring different things (which goes back to my point about choosing and adapting for your kids), but all having a splendid time.

Comments from parents were overwhelmingly positive – those who already had the book commented on how easy it was to just grab it and go with something. They said how older siblings could benefit too, either by choosing and ‘running’ the activities for younger, or by changing the focus, eg one said they’d played Toy Tombola but as their little one knew numbers, they wrote a forfeit to do 12 star jumps etc. Others said how well the book displayed the activities (“the photos must have taken ages!”) and all agreed on how enjoyable and easy the activities were.

So, I’m sorry, I know this has been a long review but I felt I had a lot to say!

My mind was totally changed on this book. I don’t begin this post with doubts and negatives as some sort of back handed compliment but only to illustrate that if you’re feeling a little cynical like I was at first, it’s unfounded! This is an absolutely brilliant book for busy parents to have at hand.

This has already become a go-to on my days off – a quick flick through at naptime gets something on the go for when he wakes up. It is already well-thumbed, a bit dog-eared and increasingly creased and will only become more so as Peapod gets bigger! Can’t recommend it enough!

Peapod’s Picks – Weekly Round Up

I’m still trying to figure out the best way of blogging about the picture and board books we share, so please bear with me as Peapod’s Picks chops abd changes and shifts about a bit!

I’m going to try posting a weekly round up on a Wednesday to go alongside my WWW Wednesday post (brilliantly I’m starting this on a week with no WWW Wednesday post from me as I’ve not got much further on than I was last week!)

I’m hoping this will be a place to record what we’ve read at bedtime (I’ve tried goodreads a notebook… I always forget to do it!), as well as any books he’s particularly taken with during the day, along with some quick summaries and comments, a bit like WWW works for me.

His library books will go in these posts too. Though I’ll still post longer reviews of new books and separate posts about our story baskets or play.

So,

What have we read at bedtime this week?

No new books this week so some off the shelf picks (I suspect Dad was stood in front of the Klassen/Barnett books when they were choosing!)

  • The Hug by Eoin Mclaughlin and Polly Dunbar You can read our review of this here.
  • Square by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen You can read our review of this here.
  • Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen we haven’t reviewed this one, but it’s a lovely tale full of sharing joy, colour and kindness. Can’t Buy Me Love as they say.
  • Giraffe Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith Another we’ve not done a full review of, but we love this, such a funny tone and Lane Smith’s illustrations match it perfectly. Giraffe is not happy with her neck, until she meets tortoise…!
  • Oi Dog! by Kes Gray, Claire Gray and Jim Field We’ve reviewed Oi Cat and Oi Duck Billed Platypus but not Oi Dog. It’s just as good, and Peapod’s favourite because it has a dog on the cover!
  • This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen You can read our review of this here

And that’s it for the first week – no library books as we’ve not been! Hopefully we’ll remedy that this week.

The Lost Tide Warriors

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.

The Lost Tide Warriors by Catherine Doyle, cover art by Bill Bragg, lettering by Patrick Knowles

I loved the first book in this series, The Storm Keeper’s Island, was ridiculously excited when this arrived in the post last July(!!) then did my usual trick of letting time escape me, life take over and TBRs languish and before I knew it it was over six months later and I still hadn’t read it!

I’m pleased to say I’ve rectified that now. Doubly pleased to say it was every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be. We rejoin Fionn struggling to use his magic and suffering from nightmares in which Morrigan appears to be getting closer and closer to returning.

When ferries full of Soulstalkers begin to arrive, the islanders of Arranmore become increasingly impatient and anxious with Fionn’s apparent lack of action.

As the islanders prepare to take Morrigan’s army on themselves, Fionn is convinced he can find the Tide Summoner and use it to call the Merrows to their aid.

With the help of both family and friends, Fionn must try to save Arranmore from Morrigan’s Return.

This is another book (like recent read The Highland Falcon Thief) in which I was really pleased to see that, while the kids get to do the bulk of the adventuring and day-saving, the adults around them are not dead/MIA/useless but actively supportive and helpful in what’s going on.

Indeed, family plays a key role in the story and the relationships between Fionn and his grandfather and his sister, Tara, feel every bit as real as they did in the first book. Though shown with plenty of warmth and humour, Catherine doesn’t shy away from the disagreements and personality clashes that are inevitable in close relationships and her characters feel all the stronger for it.

Similarly, the end of the book leaves us in no doubt about the strength of their family bonds and their ability to eclipse quarrels and differences. This is an especially sad event, but Catherine deals with it so, so well and the way we are prepared for it gradually through the book was excellent too.

As well as family, themes of friendship and belonging are also explored. It was good to see Shelby feature prominently and grow in confidence over the book (and I have my suspicions and hopes we’ll see more from her brother, Bartley in book 3…) Both she and Fionn, and their friendship, will be a comfort to those who’ve struggled with self-doubt or worried about their place in the world. And completing their friendship group, upbeat and optimistic Sam was a perfect foil to Fionn’s seriousness and a really welcome addition.

As they work against the clock to find a way to defeat Morrigan and her army again, we are asked to contemplate the nature of responsibility, pride and asking for help as well as the idea of gifts vs skills and talents manifesting in different ways. I especially liked the way we saw this through tales of past Storm Keepers, all of whom had different skills and strengths.

This is a fantastic follow up to book one. With Storm Keeper’s Island very much doing the groundwork – setting the scene, introducing us to Arranmore and its inhabitants, and detailing the wonderfully unique candle magic system – Lost Tide Warriors is able to get straight into the action. And it does.

With disturbing dreams and an invasion of hoardes of vacant but menacing Soulstalkers almost immediately, a reappearance of some utterly dark and despicable baddies, betrayals, mistrust and in-fighting aplenty plus a truly, truly brilliant battle scene this is full of excitement, danger and tension from the off.
As with the first book, it is breathtaking in its depiction of the island and its atmosphere – I came away weather beaten and exhilarated. And it is steeped in history and mythology thanks to Catherine’s knowledge and love of Irish folklore.

You probably could, just about, read it as a stand alone book, as the recap was enough to refresh my rusty memory and gives enough for a new reader to understand what’s going on. However, this is also a book which will leave you desperate for the next so if you haven’t read book one start there so you don’t miss a minute!