WWW Wednesday 1/7/20

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

What are you currently reading?

The Lost Soul Atlas by Zana Fraillon

I’m a huge fan of Zana’s other books and while this seems to have taken a totally new, fantasy type style, I think it’s going to be just as gritty and tackle equally important themes and I’m very much enjoying what littke I have read so far.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding, audiobook read by Martin Jarvis

I’ve nearly finished this now. I can’t say I’ve loved it but I am glad to have finally read it.

What have you just finished reading?

The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith by Loris Owen

This was a good, original and imaginative debut. My review is here.

The Midnight Swan by Catherine Fisher

I loved this! I’m a huge fan of the trilogy and this ended it brilliantly. My review is here.

The Last Paper Crane by Kerry Drewery

Absolutely stunning. Review will follow ASAP.

What will you read next?

Seren’s love of Sherlock Holmes in The Midnight Swan, along with Arthur Conan Doyle’s appearance in The House of Hidden Wonders recently have made The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes my next audiobook.

I’m not sure which of my #20booksofsummer books will be next, but I’m thinking possibly Wilde.

And My Name is River will probably be my next netgalley read.

Have you read any of these?

What are you currently reading?

Peapod’s Picks 1/7/20

A round up of some of the books we’ve enjoyed reading this week…

Both of our Mog board books are still ruling the roost when it comes to bedtime reading. Read more here.

Likewise, The Very Busy Day has continued in regular rotation, but I’ve managed to get The Very Noisy Night in there too just to mix things up a (really tiny) bit!

Big Mouse and Little Mouse are back and this time, Little Mouse can’t sleep. Another wonderfully warm bedtime take, perfect for fans of Peace at Last or Can’t You Sleep Little Bear?

Campbell’s First Stories Cinderella has been a big hit, with Peapod waving his shoe at each of us in turn declaring “nooooo!” and delighting at ‘losing’ a welly on our walks! You can read my review of this series here.

He’s loved Bunnies on the Bus by Philip Ardargh and Ben Mantle, which is the delightfully daft, rhyming tale of some Bunnies who steal a bus and go careering off causing chaos in it!

He loves spotting the Bandit Squirrels and talking about other things we see in the illustrations, which have lots going on! And thinks it’s very funny when I sing the repeated part of the book but change it from Bunnies to other animals or Peapod etc.

There’s a clip of Philip Ardargh reading an extract of the book here.

Peapod has been loving playing with his jellycat octopuses this week, so I got this one down to read again and he’s been giggling away at it!

Our poor protagonist can’t find a pair of pants to fit anywhere, but have they been looking for the wrong thing all along? A superbly silly, rhyming book that bounces along and is very much enjoyed here. Peapod likes seeing all the fish in their pants!

Another octopus book arrived this week too – Now Wash Your Hands by Matt Carr. It’s a firm favourite already and I’ve reviewed it here.

Lastly for this week is Hippobottymus by Steve Smallman and Ava Grey. It’s a rhythmic, rhyming, musical book as the animals in the jungle come together in a spontaneous band making all sorts of sounds, but just who started it all?!

Peapod thinks this is hilarious and loves to tap his bum going “trump trump” when talking about it/reading it/asking for it!

Huge thanks again to Brian for the heads up on this one!

Have you read any of these?

Which picture books have you enjoyed this week?

Picture Book Picks: Now Wash Your Hands!

It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve done a picture book post, despite having spent a small fortune on them during lockdown!

But in an attempt to get back into it, here’s four of our new ones.

Today, I’ll be reviewing Now Wash Your Hands! Check back over the next few days for reviews of the others!

Now Wash Your Hands by Matt Carr

Doctorpus Doris has gone into school to teach about germs and handwashing.

With Covid seeing us up our hand hygiene, this is a really fun way to get that message across to young children (and with 50p from each sale going towards the NHS Charities Together COVID-19 Urgent Appeal) l.

There is, though, no mention of Covid and as such, this will remain a brilliant ‘tool’ in any home, nursery or classroom even after this pandemic has passed in helping to explain to children in a simple, bright and engaging way how and why we wash our hands.

There’s even a handy (geddit?!) hand washing song and visual instructions for a good handwash too!

We’re big fans of Matt Carr’s books already; this retains his characteristic colourful, bold style and is definitely Peapod’s current favourite daytime read!

He asks for this book all the time. He loves Doris, joins in reading (shouting “hands!” at the ‘wash your hands’ parts) and it’s been great at getting him to wash his hands more willingly too.

He’s usually pretty good anyway but if we’re met with any reluctance, a quick “what would Doris the Doctorpus say?” gets us an immediate run to the sink and “hands!”

I’ve now bought another two copies for his nursery too!

The Midnight Swan

I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this from the publishers on netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

The Midnight Swan by Catherine Fisher, cover art by

This is the third book in Catherine Fisher’s Clockwork Crow trilogy (you can read my reviews of the first two here) and, while they do make sense as short, magical adventures read on their own, I’d recommend starting with book one and reading them in order, especially to get the most out of Seren and Crow’s stories.

Bearing that in mind, this review presumes knowledge of the first two.

If you’ve read the first two, you’ll be pleased to see both of their tales reach satisfying conclusions here, but not before another encounter with the Tylwyth Teg, who are back to cause mischief again.

However, this time they’re not the only magical beings at play as we finally hear the true account of what happened to Crow and meet The Midnight Swan.

I won’t say too much about the plot, as like the previous books it’s short – small but perfectly formed as they say – and I don’t want to give anything away.

Suffice to say, with a magic mirror and a thicket of thorns; vanishing places and changing paths; enchanted objects and a secret garden; bargains, promises and curses; wishes, courage and gifts this has absolutely everything fans of folklore and fairytale could wish for. And more.

There’s symbolism and reference to other tales in abundance and a gloriously Wonderland-like feel to the whole book. And the parliament of birds was just inspired. I loved it.

Squeezing an exciting midnight quest (complete with river rapids, pursuit and capture) into such a short book alongside all of this is skilled indeed and made for thoroughly gripping reading.

Magical, immersive and steeped in folklore, I absolutely LOVED this and can’t recommend this trilogy enough. Yes it is short, but that makes it even easier to read back to back and I promise that’s exactly what you’ll want to do once you’ve begun!

The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith

I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this on netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith by Loris Owen

Kip is lonely and miserable at school. His sister is missing and his mother in a care home after a lightning strike.

Then a mysterious invitation that appears in the form of a puzzle to be solved leads him to Quicksmiths College of Strange Energy and he is offered a place there, where the finest and most creative minds are nurtured and new ideas and discoveries abound.

Indeed, there are endless clever and imaginative inventions and possibilities in this unique and well thought out world. From the useful to the fun, from the important to the novelty, there is so much to delight and wonder at – young readers will love it and it should be a huge source of inspiration to any budding scientists or inventors!

There’s real scientific and futuristic flare with wormholes, slipstreams and skimmies (flying hover board type devices), GENI (think Alexa but less invasive and WAY more capable), Quickets (electronic currency) and the use of technology.

This really set it apart from many other children’s fantasy adventures, which often have a more historical or rustic feel (which I absolutely love, but it is good to see something doing it differently!)

Once at Quicksmiths, Kip is soon part of a school wide race to find the Ark of Ideas and Secret Study of genius scientist and founder Eartha Quicksmith by solving a series mysterious riddles left hundreds of years earlier.

I really enjoyed this part of the book. While I did find the first part of the book a bit slow and a bit over the top at times, the latter part really picked up the pace and brought a much better sense of purpose and excitement to the story.

And I really loved the added intrigue of the riddles and seeing the characters working through them and how they’re solved; there is huge appeal in this book for any young (and not so young) puzzle lovers!

And it was great to see the sense of camaraderie and team spirit as the characters used their individual strengths and interests to work together and support each other.

The ending came with a brilliant twist and has been left ripe for a sequel, which I look forward to reading if/when we get it!

I’ll be honest, there were elements I was less keen on – I felt like it was all trying a bit too hard at times and I felt the first half could have been less wordy and much pacier. There were certain aspects of some characters speech that grated on me, though I suspect that’s personal taste, and honestly I just couldn’t get on with Professor Steampunk at all.

BUT none of this prevented me from really enjoying it as a whole and in the second half I absolutely couldn’t put it down wanting to see them solve the next riddle each time!

I’d definitely recommend this and it was great to see sci-fi and girls/women in STEM meet the popular fantasy adventure style quest so well. The use of riddles and technology was inspired and messages of respect, democracy, aspiration, teamwork and valuing variety and individuality shone out.

MG Takes on Thursday – Boy 87

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

To join in, all you need to do is:

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

Boy 87 by Ele Fountain, published by Pushkin (I can’t find the cover artist, sorry!)

I’m squeezing this in as MG although really it’s top end of MG, moving into teen. But I loved this so much when it was released and having reviewed Ele’s newest book Lost yesterday, this seemed a good time to give this book a shout too.

Especially since I was sure I’d reviewed it but don’t seem to have done.

And especially as we have seen a fair few books since which deal with similar topics gain huge popularity, while this (which is at least as good if not better than many) remains relatively unknown.

It tells the story of Shif as he flees his home and faces danger, cruelty, loss and hardship as he attempts to make his way to (relative) safety.

It’s an absolutely heart-breaking book that makes the plight of refugees all too real and helps them become more than news stories and numbers.

My favourite sentence from page 11:

“It’s my most precious possession.”

This book in three words:

Desperation. Survival. Reality.

WWW Wednesday 24/6/20

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

What are you currently reading?

The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith by Loris Owen

I’m mostly enjoying this. There’s imaginative and unique world building (although it could be pared back a bit at times) and the riddles are just beginning. I’m liking but not loving it.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding, audiobook read by Martin Jarvis

I’ve only just started this, and I don’t think I should have gone straight into this whilst still feeling Back Home (see below) but I’m hoping it will grow on me!

What have you just finished reading?

Back Home by Michelle Magorian, audiobook read by the author.

I loved this and was left with a real book hangover from it. I think I need to seek out some more Michelle Magorian, especially as audiobooks, as I really enjoyed listening to her read it – I didn’t know she’d written so much!

This had me hurting, angry, frustrated and upset both with and on behalf of the characters. It was just brilliant – thank you Amy for the recommendation.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Such a powerful, thought-provoking and important book. You can read my review here.

Lost by Ele Fountain

Another brilliant and important book – you can read my review here.

What will you read next?

Something else from my 20 Books of Summer Picks, maybe another Elizabeth Acevedo and either the new Catherine Fisher or Zana Fraillon on netgalley.

I also feel like I need more kids classics/modern classics ideas to choose from on audio, I’m feeling a little uninspired…

Have you read any of these?

What are you currently reading?

20 Books of Summer #4 – Lost

Lost by Ele Fountain

I was a huge fan of Ele Fountain’s first book, Boy 87 (a hugely under-rated upper-MG must-read if you ask me) so I was really excited about this.

We meet Lola as she searches for her brother, Amit, after they’ve become separated having suddenly found themselves homeless – street rats.

I really loved the way the book then looked back at their lives prior to this, cleverly highlighting the contrast between two very different worlds nestled side by side.

Previously, Lola and Amit were rich, comfortable and almost blind to the struggles of the less well off around them – a striking difference to the scared, starving and vulnerable children we see now facing hunger, fatigue, and police brutality amongst other things.

Their sense of entitlement and ignorance is at least marginally better than the active dislike, disapproval and superiority of their friends whose callous comments and unfeeling attitudes and actions are shocking but sadly believable.

We then follow Lola into the present, a flawed but very likeable character who I really rooted for and felt for as she desperately tried to do the right thing and take care of her brother with no real-world knowledge whatsoever.

And this is another element I thought was excellent about the book – the way it shows just how easily and suddenly homelessness can hit, how it can happen to anyone and how it’s not “their fault” through laziness or similar.

As she searches for Amit, we see her eyes gradually opened to the hardship that’s been around them all along and, perhaps even more importantly, the various reasons that led the children to be on the streets.

Through Lola we meet several “street rats” – sleeping in tunnels, working long days for pennies and no recognition, being chased away, beaten or recruited by gangs.

One of whom, Rafi, though prickly at first gradually allows Lola to get closer and helps her develop some street smarts and look for Amit. I thought he was a brilliant character and liked the way his friendship with Lola developed.

Because of this I both absolutely loved, but also inwardly cried “noooo!” at the ending! It was just right.

It’s great to see characters who grow and change their mindset as they learn more over the course of the book, though sad to see how shuttered, cruel and ignorant others choose to remain.

Highlighting the sadly all-too prevalent issues of child poverty and homelessness, this would be a great book for opening up discussion about these issues – both in the context of the book and more locally.

Overall, this is a brilliant and important book, both heartbreaking and heartwarming in turn. With a fantastic sense of place, important issues and well-drawn characters and relationships, it more than lived up to my expectations.

20 Books of Summer #3 – The Poet X

My third book of this year’s 20 Books of Summer challenge is one that has been sat on my TBR shelf for way, WAY too long!

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

A coming of age tale about finding your voice and making a stand for what you want and what you believe in.

Xiomara is faced with a great deal of internal conflict as she tries to navigate a world dominated by the ways others perceive and treat her as well as their expectations of her.

With a highly religious mother, a father who’s barely there (and seems absent even when he’s present), a twin she’s close to but nothing like, and a faith that is being more than questioned, it’s a time of turmoil for Xiomara as she approaches confirmation  (unwillingly), falls for a boy and has her first kiss (illicitly) and begins to question the status quo.

I’ve mentioned before how much I love a novel written in verse, and this was no exception to that rule.

As well as being the perfect format to write about Xiomara discovering her own voice as a poet and the way she uses poetry as an outlet to both express and deal with her feelings, the verse style also added grit and punch to the story.

I thought it also helped Xiomara’s background, home and culture shine – I especially loved the way Spanish words and phrases were interspersed, as well as the religious metaphors and images.
Likewise, I’ve mentioned before that contemporary YA isn’t really my thing but this is SO MUCH MORE than a sweet-but-angsty first-kiss-and-finding-yourself teen read.

The oppression, prejudice and expectation – both immediate from her mother and in a wider, cultural and societal sense – and how we see these threaten her twin brother too (despite initial appearances) make this a much more important and much more powerful read.

There is a thread of hope through this, but nothing is certain and Xiomara’s situation looks pretty hopeless at times. I really felt for her, but also – more importantly – I really, really admired her for so many reasons.

I don’t think my own adolescence or background could have been more different, but I still found such a lot to relate to and reflect on. I wish I’d had her strength and self-respect.

The thought of young women growing up reading this, seeing this and hopefully feeling more seen, more heard and more confident from it makes me glad.

Similarly, my own relationship with my mother was nothing like Xiomara’s, but I still found myself with all sorts of complicated thoughts and feelings about and towards her mother, their relationship and my own, as I read through.

Undoubtedly this would have been more black and white if I’d read it at the time, but it shows the depth of understanding and tenacity in the writing that Acevedo is so able to create a sympathy and understanding for Xiomara’s mother even as we root for Xiomara herself.

In a similar vein, I loved the way we saw Xavier (Twin)’s story through Xiomara’s too.

This was one of those books that provoked so many thoughts and feelings in me as I read. It’s a must-read and I can’t wait to get stuck in to Elizabeth’s next two books now too.

Peapod’s Reading Round Up 20/6/20

A weekly round up of some of the books we’ve enjoyed over the past week. It should be on a Wednesday, who knows when it will turn up at the moment!

As I’ve mentioned in recent weeks, Peapod is very much in a phase of getting stuck on certain books and wanting them over and over again.

Trying to sneak new books into this is no mean feat; it takes careful selection, timing and suggestion and more often than not fails!

But this week I did manage to get a few new books into our regular rotation…

Mog and Me and other stories by Judith Kerr

Peapod loves the original Mog book and its one we return to regularly, so I ordered this one and he’s taken to it immediately. I think he might even prefer it, seeing himself in Nicky and enjoying the simpler, shorter text.

Almost primer-like, this is a collection of four short Mog stories – one about a typical day, another about Mog’s kittens, another about being in the garden and one about Mog’s family.

Peapod loves to join in with this – “streeeeetch!” – and point out things that are familiar to him either from. His day to day life or other books (he loves that there’s a cat called George who plays in a dustbin because of the dog George who does the same in Oh No George!)

We’ve even ended up ordering him a bed because Nicky in the story has one and he’s so taken with the idea!

Peapod has had a thing for cleaning up for as long as he’s been old enough to show an interest in things. So I used this to add the next two to our regular bedtime reads.

Sharing a Shell by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks

This is a Donaldson favourite of mine and Peapod loves it too. A hermit crab is convinced to share their shell with an anemone (“memnee”) who can scare off potential predators and bristleworm who keeps it clean. Life is peachy til the shell becomes too small and crab and anemone fall out over it. Luckily bristleworm is there to play peacemaker.

Donaldson’s way with words and rhyming skills combine with Lydia Monks’ vibrant, fun illustrations to create a thoroughly enjoyable book that’s great to read and re-read with a warm theme of friendship that uses humour and pace to avoid becoming saccharine. It’s a big hit here.

Tidy by Emily Gravett

I also managed to get him switched on to this one thanks to Pete the badger’s cleaning obsession. Trying to make the forest perfectly ordered and clean and neat, Pete soon realises he may have gone too far.

I’m a big Emily Gravett fan and I really love this one. With her trademark detail and well-balanced realism and humour in the illustrations alongside perfectly rhythmic, rhyming text which is equally amusing and very enjoyable to read.

Playfully put, it’s a warning to us all to look after nature and embrace its messy and unbridled ways, but it’s also just a very good story with wonderful illustrations.

This is one that can stay in the repeated reads pile indefinitely as far as I’m concerned, which is lucky as Peapod loves it too.

If you know of any other cleaning and tidying picture books, I’d love to know what they are?!