#MGTakesOnThursday – Goodnight Mister Tom

Mary over at Book Craic has started a really exciting new meme #MGTakesOnThursday.

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.

This week, I finished the audiobook of one of my favourite childhood books. I’ve reread it once or twice since then and it never fails to hit me hard.

There’s so much to love about this book, but mostly I love how unflinching it is – we’re not spared some pretty tough truths from Will’s homelife, nothing is sugar-coated and it is hard to read at times; I love its bittersweet ending and I love that it doesn’t patronise or hide things from its young audience.

Set during World War Two, Willy is an evacuee and we see him blossom under ‘Mister Tom’s care after what we gradually come to see has been a hard start in life.

A little like when I reread When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, there was much that affected me as an adult that probably didn’t have the same impact when I was younger too.

While nothing is hidden from younger readers, nothing is dwelt on either; as a child I understood in a fairly abstract way what had happened, but as an adult it broke me.

As well as William’s story, we get the historical backdrop of the war as well as a real contrast between city and country, with a really nostalgic feel of rural village life.

My favourite line from page 11:

” ‘Bye, miss, missis,’ he whispered.”

In three words?

Historical. Heart-breaking. Hopeful.

Have you read this?

Are you taking part in #MGTakesOnThursday?

Peapod’s Reading Round Up

A look back over some of the highlights of our reading week.

OK, it’s actually been two weeks since our last Round Up and we’ve read so much in that time I’ve lost track, so I’m going to just post about a few we’ve read in that time.

Last time we posted, we were enjoying The Tiger Who Came to Tea and we still are though not multiple times a day now!

We’re also still revisiting ‘Who’s in the Egg?’ often, which we reviewed a few weeks ago here, and have seen a revival of Collecting Cats which we read a while back and are now reading again at least once a day.

Most of the rest of this week’s choices can be split into three camps – Bunnies, Moles or Pants!

First off – Bunnies!

Hooray for Hoppy by Tim Hopgood

We reviewed this last year but have really got a lot more from it now Peapod’s a little older (my favourite being him lolloping about the garden, “hop! hop!” and pretending to bend down and nibble the grass like Hoppy!)

A book about the senses, it is also an absolute celebration of springtime – perfect for reading in the sunshine!

Are You There Little Bunny?

We also read this last year, but as with Hoppy, we’ve got more out if it this time around.Peapod finds all the incorrect sightings of bunny very entertaining “Nooooooo!” and likes spotting all the minibeasts in the illustrations too.

Next up – Moles!

Rather oddly, one of Peapod’s newest words is “mole” after seeing this page in Tim Hopgood’s ‘Wow! It’s Night-time!’

So, we’ve had requests for “moles” in books. One Mole Digging a Hole was flatly rejected.

The Percy the Park Keeper books by Nick Butterworth fared better though they’re quite long so haven’t entered the Repeated Read realm (I can’t wait til they do as I love these books!)

We reviewed Rocketmole by Matt Carr here last year, and Peapod very much liked the moles in this. Though rather than reading the entire book on repeat, we’ve just been doing the countdown/blast off page over and over and over again!

And finally – Pants!

I’ve done a Pants post before which does feature these, but I couldn’t resist sharing them again now.

Please indulge a bit of a proud (however temporarily!) mum moment with this one – I picked these out for bedtime this week after we successfully made it through a week of no daytime nappies!

Giles Andreae and Nick Sharratt’s Pants and More Pants are delightfully daft, rhyming fun but our favourite has been

Don’t Put Your Pants on Your Head Fred by Caryl Hart and Leigh Hodgkinson

Our poor young Fred is getting on a right muddle getting dressed – which comes first, what goes under what, and where do they all go?! He writes to the army for help, but they’re in an even bigger pickle. Luckily help is st hand and they get straightened out!

A funny, rhythmic, rhyming book that’s a joy to read and in which older little ones will find much to both relate to and laugh about.

We don’t usually read it all the way through, Peapod mainly likes the cover – standing triumphantly, pants on head, pointing to the book crying out a thrilled “Nooooooo!!” Recommendations don’t come better than that!

Have you read any of these?

Which picture books have you read this week?

And do you have any favourite pants or mole themed books?!

WWW Wednesday 29/4/20

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

What are you currently reading?

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley.

I’m absolutely loving my reread of this!

The House of One Hundred Clocks by AM Howell (ebook)

I’m just a few chapters on but I’m certainly intrigued! It’s all very mysterious and I’m hooked!

The Silver Sword by Ian Serrallier, audiobook read by Sean Barrett

I’m not sure if I ever read this growing up. I feel sure I must have as it’s one I know my mum really likes and I have vague recollections of it written in my reading record book!! But I have absolutely no recollection of the story itself! Either way, I’m enjoying it!

What have you just finished reading?

Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner, ebook

I’m glad to have finally read this, but honestly it left me a little (OK, quite a lot) underwhelmed. There’s elements that I liked but it just felt a bit slow, everything that happened seemed to be described to the last detail, but actually I’m not sure all that much really happened at all. I’m not convinced it’s stood the test of time.

The Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann, audiobook read by Paul Whitehouse and Esther Coles

I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this story and listening to this on audiobook!


Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian, audiobook read by Patrick Malahide
I have loved this since we first read it when I was in year 6. My mum loves it too so it’s a real favourite, but it’s a long time since I’d read it.

I was worried thst by listening to it the characters wouldn’t be howci picture them and gear them, and they weren’t, but it didn’t spoil it. Just as emotional and heartbreaking and hopeful and wonderful as ever!

What will you read next?

I’ll follow up The Watchmaker of Filigree Street with The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley.

I am also planning to take part in Believathon again in May so I’ll be choosing my MG books for that soon too!

Have you read any of these?

What are you currently reading?

Fri-YAy – The Black Flamingo

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.

Whether or not this becomes any kind of regular thing depends both on

a) me reading some more YA like I keep saying I will

and

b) me posting anything on time or with any degree of reliability

There’s a double post today, with both this one and Becoming Dinah by Kit de Waal, and after that I’d like this to be a fortnightly or, maybe more realistically, monthly post to review my YA reads.

The two books I’m kicking off with though are both brilliant ‘coming-of-age’ tales of finding out who you are and becoming comfortable with yourself.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, artwork by Anshika Khullar

I’m such a huge fan of Sarah Crossan’s novels in verse and really enjoyed Meg Grehan’s The Deepest Breath too, so I was really pleased to find a new YA verse novel, this time from Dean Atta (If anyone has any other verse novel recommendations I would love to hear them!)

The Black Flamingo is Michael’s story, told in the form of narrative style poems, illustrated effectively throughout and with gorgeous feathery pages at the start of each chapter. I know I’ve said it before but don’t let the verse put you off, especially in this case. More like carefully selected, carved and crafted prose than your typical idea of ‘poetry’ might be, this is immensely readable.

We follow Michael through the book as he grows up – from a young child coveting Barbies, being guest of honour at the girls’ sleepovers and playing “husband and wife” with the boys…to a teenager lacking in confidence, befriending “the misfit” and discovering his sexuality…to a student away from home for the first time and finding his people, his place, his voice…himself.

The book is universally relatable in many ways – family dynamics and the effects our family relationships can have on us, both positive and negative; the uncertainty, confusion and constant navel-gazing of teenage years; friendships, fallings out, first crushes, fitting in (or not) and those first steps away from home.

It certainly spoke to me and brought back many experiences and emotions from when I was growing up (and as a white, heterosexual woman in her thirties I am definitely not its target audience!)

But, it’s clear that for some, this book will be so much more than that – a beacon of hope, bringing with it reassurance and a message of strength, unity and positivity.

Michael deals with homophobia and racism – in upfront, deliberate ways, but more often (and as I suspect is more commonly the case in reality) in latent, almost unintentional, ingrained and learned ways – as well as old-fashioned, unhelpful and stereotypical views of gender, yet he finds his way through this and gains self confidence and belief.

I loved the way drag (along with friendship and learning from his mistakes) was in the end what helped Michael find his confidence and his voice and, in more ways than one, his identity. I really liked the way we saw drag explained, given depth and taken seriously as a performance too.

With themes of ethnicity, sexuality and gender as well as family and friendships addressed believably, powerfully and with a great deal of insight, sensitivity and warmth this is a must-read for so many young readers (and older ones like me will find plenty to enjoy, relate to and feel about this too). I loved this and can’t wait to read more from Dean Atta.

Fri-YAy: Becoming Dinah

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.

Whether or not this becomes any kind of regular thing depends both on

a) me reading some more YA like I keep saying I will

and

b) me posting anything on time or with any degree of reliability

There’s a double post today, with both this one and The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, and after that I’d like this to be a fortnightly or, maybe more realistically, monthly post to review my YA reads.

The two books I’m kicking off with though are both brilliant ‘coming-of-age’ tales of finding out who you are and becoming comfortable with yourself.

Becoming Dinah by Kit de Waal, artwork by ?

Published as part of Hachette’s ‘Bellatrix’ YA range, all written by female authors and designed to tell the “untold, mistold or misheard” stories of women.

We’ve already seen Kiran Millwood-Hargrave tell the story of Dracula’s brides in The Deathless Girls and here Kit de Waal retells Moby Dick – a book with almost no female characters at all – with a female main character in a modern day, terra firma setting.

I haven’t read Moby Dick. I was inspired to after reading this and I tried with it but I just couldn’t get into it. However, from what I know of it and what I read before abandoning ship so to speak, I really liked what Kit did with Ahab in this telling and the way she uses Ishmael, in particular the way she plays on the famous “Call me Ishmael” line.

Becoming Dinah tells the story of Dinah/Ishmael essentially doing just that – finding out who she is and “becoming Dinah”.

I loved the way her story was told. We begin not knowing exactly what she’s running from, just that she’s done something terrible and has to leave. I really liked the way we begin to guess at what this is as the backstory takes shape, and at how the book builds up to it; in Dinah/Ishmael’s mind, it is calamitous, while we gradually get the sense it may not be and this helps to convey that.

We’re then witness to Dinah shaving off her long, thick hair – her ‘crowning glory’ – in a scene that is part reverse-Samson, as we see later on rather than losing her strength with this she gathers strength from it, and part re-invention as she sheds her most defining feature ready to flee as Ishmael.

Initially planning on walking and hitch-hiking, she ends up agreeing to drive (despite not having passed her test) an old camper van for a neighbour who, like her, we find is also running away though in a more metaphorical sense and who, like her, ends up on a more emotional than physical journey.

The story unfolds in a really effective way with chapters in the present, written as Ishmael, that feel like they’re on a collision course with something, though we know not what, alternating with chapters looking back at the events in Dinah’s life that have led us here.

Dinah grew up homeschooled on a commune and while this is mostly portrayed as a happy time, I did have some misgivings about elements of it. That said, for the most part I recognise that this was not really intended as a comment on her life, more so on the way her peers used it to mark her out as different.

After some upheavals at home, and as she is growing older and experiencing that teenage itch to spread her wings, rebel and be her own person, Dinah decides to enrol in the local high school. Life there is tough at first, but she is befriended by Queenie and things start to look up. I’ll be honest though, I’m glad Queenie had only a small role in the book as, while she was necessary, I found her a bit two dimensional.

Dinah/Ishmael herself I found much more credible and I really felt for her, as well as reliving so many pangs of my own teenage emotions – shame, anger, angst, confusion, desire, freedom… at various points of her story. There is one point at which Ishmael daydreams of moving to New York, where she’ll be cool and popular and life will be good and I had this dream almost so exactly in my late teens that reading it here was particularly emotive.

I also grew to really love the character of Ahab in the book – complex, layered and deep, there is more than meets the eye to the crotchety old bully of a man we meet in the first chapter or two.

I really liked the multi-generational aspect of the story, and the way we saw the effect of the journey not just on Dinah/Ishmael, but also on him. For Dinah/Ishmael, there is a real sense of growth, finding her identity and becoming more self-aware and self-confident.

Ahab is not lacking in self-confidence, or so it seems, but he is hurting and he too needs this journey to open up, grow emotionally and let go of his pride. For both of them, it is a journey of healing and of dealing with the past in order to move forwards.

The ending was for me a little too tidy, happy and predictable BUT I know this is just me. I’m a miserable old cynic who’s not a fan of happy endings and in a YA book of this style and on this theme it’d be ridiculous for it to have anything else! So, in this respect, it’s very much a case of “It’s not you, it’s me”.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. Despite not caring much for the smaller characters, I thought the main characters were complicated and credible, and I felt like I really got to know and care for them.

I really enjoyed how the story was told over the course of the road trip, and the way their encounters along the way all helped to move their journey along both physically and emotionally.

Telling Ahab’s story alongside Dinah/Ishmael’s really added depth and different perspectives to the themes the books addressed and was something I really enjoyed, especially as an older YA reader.

To summarise – with themes of relationships, family and identity, this is a warm, emotional and cleverly told road trip of self-discovery, facing your fears and growing up.

#MGTakesOnThursday – The Huntress Trilogy

Mary over at Book Craic has started a really exciting new meme #MGTakesOnThursday.

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.

This week, I decided to go back to an older MG book as if not read anything new, so I chose a trilogy I love that was one of the first MG reviews I wrote.

The Huntress Trilogy: Sea, Sky and Storm by Sarah Driver, artwork by Joe McLaren (covers) and Janene Spencer (interior), published by Egmont

My favourite line from page 11 of book one, Sea:

“A clump of song knocks against my cheek, whale-skin cold. With it comes a low, sad groan from far across the water.”

Honestly, I struggled to choose a lime and just wanted to share the page, and reading the page made me want to reread the series again too!

In three words?

Thrilling. Fantastical. Adventure.

My review

My review of the trilogy can be found here.

Have you read this?

Are you taking part in #MGTakesOnThursday?

WWW Wednesday 22/4/20

I’ve not posted a WWW for a couple of weeks, mostly because I’ve hardly been reading in April. Between making myself catch up on reviews before starting something new, not having anywhere near as much reading time during ‘lockdown’ and struggling with Moby Dick I just hadn’t read anything! But, my reviews are caught up and I’ve DNF-ed Moby Dick (I still don’t have any time to read, but two out of three and all that!) so, I’m back on the books! WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday.

What are you currently reading?

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

I bought this when it came out and loved it, so I’ve been really looking forward to reading the follow up that’s judt been released. But I read the first page and just really wanted to read this again first. I so rarely reread books so it feels like a bit of a treat to be going back to a book I enjoyed so much the first time.

Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner, ebook

This is one of those books I always think “oh I must read that” when I see it in work but then always forget about. I’d reached the end of The Pear Affair and wanted another classic style adventure/mystery type book. I had a few other, more modern, candidates lined up but this popped into my head and it seemed a good chance to finally read it. I think the fact that it’s quite short also swayed me as I needed something to restart my reading after a lull. I’m a few chapters in and enjoying it so far.

The Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann, audiobook read by Paul Whitehouse and Esther Coles


So, this will age me (and I suspect some of you will fall into the “Oh my goodness, yes, I remember that” half and others the “what on earth is she on about?!” half) but while if never read this, I LOVED the animated series when I was young (though my sister loved it even more, she hot the magazines too!)

To be honest, I don’t think I knew until working in a bookshop that it was a book, but I’m do glad to have ditched Moby Dick and reverted to children’s classics on audio as I am thoroughly enjoying this (though I can’t deny, I’m still picturing the characters from the series as I listen!)


What have you just finished reading?

The Borrowers by Mary Norton, audiobook read by Christopher Eccleston

A lovely return to children’s classics. This is another I loved the TV series of as a child, though I had read this one too, but I really enjoyed revisiting it.

What will you read next?

Physical copies/ebooks – I’ll follow up The Watchmaker of Filigree Street with The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley.
I am also planning to take part in Believathon again in May so I’ll be choosing my MG books for that soon too! Audiobook – Another children’s classic. Maybe Watership Down or Goodnight Mister Tom.

Have you read any of these? What are you currently reading?

Peapod’s Reading Round Up 16/4/20

A look back over some of the highlights of our reading week.

This week started with books from last week still on heavy rotation. Readings of What Does an Anteater Eat? have started to tail off now, but whenever we see a few ants together they’re met with a cry of “Raaaaaaaaa!” (“Run!”)

We’ve also revisited Circle this week; Peapod’s dad chose it for bedtime a few weeks ago and something must have taken Peapod’s fancy as he’s chosen it a couple of times since, but been adamant he only wants this one and not Square or Triangle. Maybe it’s her curves…?!!

And 100 Dogs is still going strong too. Peapod has added “Toot Dog” to the ones weeing and pooing he already enjoyed finding (I’m sure his dad had something to do with this!) and now delightedly chuckles “toot” while we all blow raspberries.

So what’s new?

Nothing new from a publishing perspective, but joining our repeated reads this week are…

Hippobottymus by Steve Smallman and Ada Grey

After his enjoyment of the tooting dog, I chose this one for us to read and he loves the rhythmic, onomatopoeiac text, all the animals and of course the trumping at the end! Even though he doesn’t really get the joke, he still giggles at the idea and the noises!

I have to credit my excellent colleague and friend Brian for uncovering this gem for us!

Spyder by Matt Carr

I chose this after Peapod recounted the tale of him, his dad and Bear ‘rescuing’ me from a spider in his room (*points to the corner* “Daddy. Bear. Hap.”)

Spyder is, as her name suggests, a secret agent spider tasked with rescuing a birthday cake from fly.

With popping comic colours and style; puns, word play and references that will have you laughing alongside little readers, as well as spider facts this is a book that has broad appeal and one we always enjoy reading.

This particular page from We Catch the Bus by Katie Abey, as he likes to point to the spiders on the bus then run to the corner with Bear for a re-enactment of the rescue.

I love this series of books and you can read my reviews of We Wear Pants and We Eat Bananas here and here.

Hop Little Bunnies by Martha Mumford and Laura Hughes

We were sent this by Bloomsbury last year and you can read my review here. It’s lovely and now that he’s a bit bigger Peapod loves it. He points out the animals, makes the noises, hops along, enjoys the singing and lifts the flaps. It’s such an enjoyable book to share!

And our absolute favourite this week that has been read at least eleventy billion times a day is…

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

I am more than happy to read this, start again, read it, start again, read it, start again… I love this book. And so it seems does Peapod!

It’s an absolute classic and I’m loving seeing Peapod start to talk about the pictures with simple comments and references (“Mama!” and “Daddy!” as he points to us, “hot!” at the cooker and “tea” at the table…) and he loves seeing the picture of Daddy coming home and our singing of “Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye” at the end!

I always think it’s a sad sort of ending, but I like it for that and the scene of them walking to the cafe absolutely makes me want to go out for a spontaneous after-dark walk in pj’s to a cafe for a treat!

Which picture or board books have you read this week? Have you read any of these?

#MGTakesOnThursday – TrooFriend

Mary over at Book Craic has started a really exciting new meme (I think that’s the right word!) #MGTakesOnThursday.

  • 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.

Following on from last week’s post which finally got my review of the hilarious Freddie Yates posted, I thought I’d use this week to highlight another book I read a while ago but have been lax in reviewing…

TrooFriend by Kirsty Applebaum, art by Sam Kalda, published by Nosy Crow.

I loved The Middler by this author and while TrooFriend didn’t leave me with quite such a book hangover, it was nevertheless a very clever and very enjoyable read that I would be recommending to many young readers if work was open at the moment!

Like The Middler, it takes on a potentially dark and difficult subject area not typically seen in children’s fiction and makes it not just appropriate, but appealing, relatable and interesting for a younger age.

Set in a fictional but plausible not-too-distant future, Sarah is given a Troofriend by her parents. The Troofriend is an android designed to be given to children as a ‘safe’ friend – one that will not bully, harm, lie, covet, steal or envy – a perfect friend in fact. But reports start to come in that the robots are developing real feelings and putting their owners at risk of harm.

Not only does this open up many questions about rights, freedoms, morality, parenting, values and actions but it also deftly and realistically explores issues of friendship that will be familiar to many (if not all) in one way or another – the desire to belong, to be popular and fit in; falling out with best friends and the challenges of making new friends.

I thought the way we saw Ivy gradually becoming sentient was so clever and having the reader see what was happening ahead of but not instead of the characters was very effective. Likewise, I thought the way we grow to really feel for Ivy was equally well done.

Overall, this was a quick but original and cleverly written read that blended contemporary MG with sci-fi ideas seamlessly.

In three words?

Technology. Friendship. Philosophical.

My favourite sentence from page 11

Yes, Shirley-Mum. My name is Ivy. Sarah named me. I like my name very much.

The Pear Affair

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 Pear Affair by Judith Eagle, artwork by Kim Geyer

I’m trying to decide what to read next and a couple of days on I still just want to read this! A twisty mystery with a fantastic setting, some wonderful (and some equally despicable) characters and a plot that will keep you hooked – I’d been looking forward to reading this after enjoying The Secret Starling last year and this was even better!

Penelope Magnificent – named after the handbag her mother loves more than her, but going by her preferred moniker of Nell – is unexpectedly home from boarding school for the holidays, meaning her awful parents are forced to take her along on their business trip to Paris.

This suits Nell fine as she’s always been fascinated with the city thanks to ‘Pear’; Perrine to give her her full title, looked after Nell (practically brought her up in fact) before she was sent to boarding school and Pear returned to Paris. Since then they’ve written regularly and always secretly planned to reunite, but a few months ago, Pear’s letters suddenly stopped and now Nell has a chance to find her and find out why…

Meanwhile in Paris, all is not well with the city’s bakeries. ‘The Thing’ – a spore causing them to go mouldy almost immediately – is doing the rounds and family run bakeries all over the city are gradually closing, although new chain Pain-tastique seems unaffected and is thriving with all the new custom (incidentally, Paintastique and Vintastique really tickled me – loved that!)…a coincidence?

I thought the way the two mysteries overlapped and interwove gradually through the book was excellent. While we start off solely focussed on Pear’s mysterious disappearance, it soon becomes clear that there’s something strange going in with the bakeries and not long after that we start to see that somehow the two might be connected – but how and why?! While, as an adult reader, I had my suspicions about aspects of this early on, and pieced together more as we got nearer to the conclusion, there were so many layers to it I couldn’t possibly have figured out the whole thing.

Judith talks about her love for Paris in the author Q&A at the back of the book and it is evident in her writing too. The city truly comes alive in the story; I’ve never been to Paris, but I felt I was there soaking it all in. I especially enjoyed the contrast of the luxurious hotel Nell starts off staying in, then ends up hiding out and working in, and the streets and tunnels she explores with her new friends.

And it is these friends and their underground tunnels, dens and adventures that I loved best about the book. Xavier, who Nell meets working at the hotel, quickly becomes the best sort of friend; Paul and Paulette are exuberant twins who I adored and Soutine is initially cool towards Nell but comes round in his way, and then there’s Emil – friendly, helpful, open and cheerful. Combined they make for a lively, warm and funny group who you root for from the get go. Spirited, loyal and determined, each with their own interests (cartography, photography, cooking) and distinct personality, they are a fabulous group of characters.

And the underground tunnels they run in really spark the imagination – like Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers but under rather than over – there’s a sense of exploration, adventure, freedom and autonomy that I just loved and I know children reading it will too!

I also really liked Nell’s vulnerability at times as she ventured into the tunnels in the dark. The description of her fear at times was so realisitic, and the way she overcame it slowly but with grit, talking herself down and remembering things that would help her was superb – no quick ‘and then it was all ok’, we really see how her panic has affected her and the effort it takes to overcome it.

Kim Geyer’s illustrations suit the book perfectly, and although in my proof copy not all chapter header illustrations are there, the ones that are really add to the atmosphere and energy.

Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable adventure with an immersive and inspiring setting, characters you can’t help but love/hate and an exciting and gripping plot. I can’t wait to see what’s next from Judith!