The Haunting of Aveline Jones

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

The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes, illustrated by Keith Robinson

I wish this book had been around when I was growing up – younger me would have loved it (of course present me did too!) Atmospheric, creepy and chilling it was a perfect read for a grey, rainy day.

Aveline is staying with her Aunt Lillian for a few days in the coastal town of Malmouth. Out of season, this makes for a perfect backdrop to the story that follows – the stormy weather, the deserted streets, the unfamiliarity to city-born Aveline.

The writing was really imnersive and I could feel the wind whipping my hair and the spray from grey waves hitting my face as I hunkered down along the front with Aveline and local boy Harold, who she gradually – somewhat reluctantly at first! – befriends.

Shy, but hiding it with quick comments (and a long fringe), Harold’s clumsy attempts to make friends with Aveline were so well-written and touching to read; I thought he was a great character and I’d love to see more of him in the next book (which I found out about the other day and now can’t wait for!)

I also really liked the way the adults in the story were portrayed too – they aren’t stereotypically stupid, mean or absent, but real, supportive and caring. I especially Lillian and the effect Aveline’s visit had on her.

And when Aveline starts to suspect some ghostly goings on, they don’t dismiss her, but walk a careful line between believing her and suggesting alternative theories, helping her to get to the bottom of it.

And it’s these ghostly goings on that make the book so thrilling. Those and Keith Robinson’s wonderfully dark and atmospheric illustrations!

Aveline loves a good ghost story and ‘stuck’ at her aunt’s for a few days with limited internet and TV, she buys a book of ghost stories from Mr Lieberman’s (another great character!) bookshop down the road.

And this is where the trouble starts. A crossed out story at the end of the book, eerie visions in the sea, a mysterious previous owner gone missing, some truly disturbing scarecrow-like effigies and things that go bump in the night… the tension, mystery and spookiness gradually build and come together leading to an absolutely heart-pounding finale.

Plus, The Specials Madness and cherry red DMs.

I really enjoyed this, and I know if I’d read it as a child I’d have loved it then too. Creepy and atmospheric with a likeable and believable cast, I can’t wait to recommend this in work as the nights draw in and I’m so excited already for book two!

MG Takes on Thursday – My Name is Mina

#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.

My Name is Mina by David Almond, cover art by Jon Carling, published by Hachette.

I recently re-read Skellig, a children’s classic that comes up on school reading lists year after year. I’d liked it well enough first time round, but failed to see what all the mega-fuss was about.

This time I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed it much more, got so much more from it and am left awaiting another read/listen in the future where I suspect I’ll discover even more.

But the thing that struck me both times was Mina.

Mina was without doubt my favourite thing about the book. Her and her mum. So when I finished listening to Skellig, I decided to read I Am Mina, which tells her story leading up to the point where she begins to befriend Michael in Skellig.

Written as Mina’s journal, it is a book of wonder and an important reminder not to lose the sense of awe, imagination and possibility we have as children.

Charlie Sanderson feels like the perfect voice for Mina so I highly recommend the audio version, but I have also bought the physical book as it is definitely one I’ll want to revisit.

The physical copy is designed as if it is Mina’s journal, with different fonts, sizes and layouts, which really adds to its appeal too. As do Mina’s ‘Extraordinary Activities’ – little tasks? ideas? prompts? to have a go at something she’s done herself.

My favourite sentence from page 11

“Words should wander and meander. They should fly like owls and flicker like bat’s and slip like cats. They should murmur and scream and dance and sing.”

And in this book, this is exactly what they do.

This book spoke straight to my heart. Bringing back memories, emotions and pangs of empathy for Mina from my own teen years as well as giving rise to feelings of such sympathy and respect for her in losing her father and grandfather.

Mina is at once self-confident and introverted, self-assured and beating herself up, opinionated and unsure, gentle and angry, but ultimately she is hopeful and a lesson to us all.

Everyone should read this book.

This book in three words

Honest. Inspiring. Wonderful.

WWW Wednesday 26/8/20

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

What are you currently reading?

The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes

I’m still only just starting this as I paused to finish The Hungry Ghost instead, but I’m back into it now and very much enjoying it so far!

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

I’ve just started this (continuing my efforts to keep picking up adult fiction too!) and I think I’m going to really enjoy it. I’m currently reading about Yazz and think she is so well written – very sharp and observant.

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

Honestly, I think if prefer this as a physical/ebook as I’m not mad on the narrator, but I’d never have got to it otherwise and I am enjoying the story a lot!

What have you just finished reading?

The Girl Who Became a Tree by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kate Milner

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

The Hungry Ghost by H S Norup

Such an enjoyable mystery, the setting of Singapore during the Hungry Ghost festival was brilliant too! You can read my review here.

My Name is Mina by David Almond, audiobook read by Charlie Sanderson

I absolutely loved this, its taken up a secure spot in my heart! I’m planning to post about it for #MGTakesOnThursday this week so more details then!

What will you read next?


Netgalley – Witch by Finbar Hawkins

PhysicalHere is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan

Audiobook – Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin Tsang

Have you read any of these?

What are you currently reading?

The Girl Who Became a Tree

I was lucky enough to request and receive a free copy of this from Bounce. All views and opinions are my own.

The Girl Who Became a Tree by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kate Milner

Those of you who’ve been around the blog for a while will know I’m a sucker for a novel in verse (incidentally, is it just me that thinks these seem to be popping up more and more? Next big trend? You heard it here first 😉) Anyway, I love ’em! So I was thrilled when the lovely Louise at Bounce sent me a copy.

Between the verse factor, the brilliantly fairytale-ish title and that ⬆️⬆️ cover art, I was pretty much sold on this before I’d even opened it! And reading it only cemented this!

Through a series of poems, we meet Daphne as she struggles to cope with the loss of her dad. Increasingly withdrawn and escaping into her phone and her local library, strange things occur when one is lost within the other. In journeying to find her phone, can Daphne find herself again too?

This is a wonderful collection of poems. And first and foremost, that is what it is. I’m finding it hard to articulate this (and let me say now when I write this – I love both, this is in no way a criticism of either) but some verse novels feel like they’re told through very deliberate, sparse chapters of narrative, all in the same style rather than a collection of poems as such. Others, rarer I find, feel like a collection poems with a story, theme or common thread running through them, and this landed firmly in the second camp.

Collectively and in sequence these poems come together to tell a very well-crafted and multi-layered story, but so many of these would read just as well picked up, opened and read at random as stand alone poems.

As such, there are many styles and sorts of poems here, and as with the best poetry collections some will bowl you over and leave you speechless, speaking straight to your heart, with others meaning more to other people – each reader having their own favourites and personal connections with different ones.

For me, A Mother’s Love reminded me so much of my own mum and me, while the word play in The Librarian really touched on my own mental health struggles.

I also liked best those with no rhyme, those dealing with nature, and those that really brought the mythical, fantastical elements of the story to life, like You Cannot Go which really grabbed me.

We see Daphne following her namesake’s path and venturing into woodland through a hole in the library, meeting a monster, becoming a tree and it was these poems, and those that told the original myth (which I was unfamiliar with) that I really loved.

The use of the natural world, and of trees in particular, in the imagery, history and characters is phenomenal. Who knew trees could be written in such versatile and emotive ways? In the same vein the use of imagery, symbolism and recurring themes throughout is so strong and effective.

It’s amazing the way technology is fused with nature in the book and I really felt immersed in this world where the two meet; bringing together that feeling of old magic, of ancient times, of tricksters and monsters and of nature’s hand in it all with iPhones and consoles and modern connections and wires and cables .

And finally, a word on the illustrations which are stunning and absolutely made this book for me. It’s an emotional, magical thing without them but with them it’s just something else. I could pore over them for hours; I love the details, the textures, the feelings, the depth.

This is a collection of poetry filled with loss, loneliness, mythology and memories which combine with layered, atmospheric imagery to create a truly modern fairytale where nature and technology collide. Brilliant.

The Hungry Ghost

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 Hungry Ghost by H S Norup, cover art by Anna Morrison

I read HS Norup’s first book, The Missing Barbegazi, back in December 2018 and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I was thrilled so see something new from her.

Set in Singapore during ‘The Hungry Ghost’ month, this couldn’t have sounded more different to the snowy ski slopes of The Missing Barbegazi!

But contained within both books are intriguing mysteries, with each showing the importance of friendship, family and history, and with each having a fantastic sense of place and culture.

This, is unsurprising as Helle puts a great deal of her own personal experience and research into the books; she knows the places she writes and is therefore able to transport us there along with her.

Here, we are taken to Singapore as Freja is suddenly taken to live there with her Dad, stepmum and half brothers. It’s apparent immediately what a culture shock this is with everything very different to her life in Denmark.

Homesick, worried about her mum, upset at her dad’s absence as he spends so much time at work and finding it hard to reconcile her loyalty to her mum with the fact that her stepmum, Clementine, is actually quite nice, Freja seeks comfort in exploring her new surroundings.

She’s an outdoor girl through and through, balking at the pretty dresses Clementine has bought her and taking her trusty Swiss army knife and compass everywhere, so when she follows a mysterious girl out of the garden and into an overgrown and disused graveyard in the lush rainforest nearby she’s thrilled at the adventure and relieved at the escape.

But who is this girl, where has she come from and how is she connected to Hungry Ghost month being celebrated by locals?

I love the way we found out about The Hungry Ghost celebrations throughout the course of the book. Rather than an awkward and obtrusive information dump, we see more and more about it as Freja sees local offerings, takes a trip to Chinatown, ends up at one of the ‘getai’ celebrations and speaks to new friends and locals. I felt, like Freja, that I was gradually becoming part of the celebrations and really enjoyed finding out about them in this way, especially as it wasn’t something I knew about previously.

Likewise, I really liked the way the ideas of honouring and remembering the dead linked into Freja’s own family and story later on in the book.

And I liked how, as Freja began to solve the mystery of Ling’s past, we began to see a mystery of her own coming to the surface alongside it. I thought the way the two stories interwove, and the way the pieces to Freja’s story fell into place and subtly came to the forefront was so clever and made it all the more moving.

The use of mythology to unravel both stories added a touch of fantasy which complemented the ghostly celebrations and was another dip into Chinese culture in itself.

There was a really careful balance struck here which was so well done – firmly rooted in real life and dealing with issues of family, friendship and loss, the book manages to use ghosts, mythology and folklore without tipping over completely into fantasy.

Family is dealt with so well in the book – we see a range of situations, both past and present, which help Freja to make sense of the changes to her own family life.

And death and loss are addressed sensitively too, as we consider them as opportunities to celebrate rather than mourn; lives to remember rather than deaths to grieve, whilst still acknowledging the sadness they bring and the necessity of the grieving process.

This is a wonderful book, rich in its setting – my senses came alive in that graveyard and when passing through the Banyan tree and the descriptions of the natural world were so vivid – and full of Chinese culture and Singaporian ways of life.

A gradually unravelling, slightly supernatural mystery, with family, friendship and positivity at its heart, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and compelling adventure and a cleverly, sensitively told tale of dealing with loss too. Perfect for fans of Emma Carroll or A M Howell and highly recommended!

Peapod’s Picks/KLTR – Birthday Cake!

Peapod’s Picks is a weekly(ish) round up of some of the books we’ve been enjoying recently.

It’s ages since I’ve linked up with Kids Love to Read for it (sorry) – between one thing and another I just hit out of the loop, but I’m linking up with them again for this week’s post too!

KLTR is hosted by Book Bairn, Acorn Books and Laura’s Lovely Blog and is a monthly link up to share kid’s book posts.

It was Peapod’s 2nd birthday yesterday (how is he 2 already?!)

Last year I posted about our tradition of buying a special, ‘to keep’ book each birthday or Christmas – Peapod, unsurprisingly, gets SO MANY books day to day that it’s nice to still give him a bookish present that feels extra special.

This year, he’s been mad on Mog and The Tiger Who Came to Tea so his special book gift was The Judith Kerr treasury.

But it’s cake we’re hear to talk about today! Specifically, cake in picture books.

In the run up to his birthday, Peapod has been mostly getting excited about cake…

… He’s made cake in his kitchen, in the sand and in the water, and we’ve read lots of cake-themed books to get in the birthday cake-eating mood!

He’s been enjoying reading Postman Bear by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler in his kitchen and making a cake like Bear does for his birthday.

He’s a big fan of these lift the flap Acorn Wood board books, with woodland creatures hiding behind the ‘doors’, plenty to infer, predict and and talk about and lots to spot in Axel’s inimitable illustrations.

I’ve enjoyed revisiting my own childhood with A Piece of Cake by Jill Murphy. You can’t beat her ability to really capture family life and in particular the adults’ points of view in ways that are warm, funny and relatable.

Here Mrs Large is trying to get the family on a diet, much to their dismay, but a cake sent from Granny proves too much temptation for all providing a funny and uplifting ending!

Mini Rabbit Not Lost by John Bond has made a comeback into our regular bedtime reads as Mini Rabbit hunts for berries to make a cake. This book is hilarious (as is its follow up) and we’re big Mini Rabbit fans here! You can read a full review of this here.

I Really Want the Cake by Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti has also joined our bedtime reads. I thought I’d reviewed this previously but I haven’t! (though you can read my review of follow up book I Really Want to Win here)

Written in perfectly flowing, rhythmic rhyming and almost-repetitive text, we see a little girl trying to fight the temptation to eat a delicious looking chocolate cake her mum has left in the kitchen, along with strict instructions not to touch!

Inevitably, cake wins and on finding herself with a problem, our brilliant protagonist decides she’ll just have to make a replacement cake for her mum with hilarious results.

I’m a huge fan of these books and it has been a scream reading this at bedtimes this week (though perhaps not the most calming, send you off to sleep story!) as Peapod dramatically pretends to eat the cake and clean up the mess. Loads of fun!

Have you read any of these?

Do you have any favourite stories about cake?

WWW Wednesday 19/8/20

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

My reading has slowed and stuttered since going back to work as I knew it would, I’m still trying to get into a new routine with everything! But here’s what I’ve carved out some time for this week…

What are you currently reading?

The Girl Who Became a Tree by Joseph Coelho and Kate Milner

I loved the sound of this when I heard about it and I’m a sucker for verse novels, so I knew I’d like it! I’ve been completely drawn in, the text us beautiful and Kate Milner’d illustrations provide the perfect accompaniment.

The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes

I’ve only read the first few pages so I can’t say much about this yet, but i really like the writing style which always has a massive impact on whether I enjoy a book or not, so I think it’ll be a winner!

My Name is Mina by David Almond, audiobook read by Charlie Sanderson

I’ve almost finished this and I don’t want it to end. I’ve loved this book, loved Mina as a character, loved Charlie Sanderson as a narrator.

What have you just finished reading?

The Castle of Tangled Magic by Sophie Anderson

I enjoyed this, though it didn’t come close to The Girl Who Speaks Bear and I wished I knew more Russian folklore to really get all the connections. My review is here.

What will you read next?

I really need to bring my netgalley reads up to speed, so I’m going to try and blitz those with The Hungry Ghost next on my list.

I’ll probably throw a physical book into the mix too but I don’t know yet which one…

Have you read any of these?

What are you currently reading?

The Castle Of Tangled Magic

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 Castle of Tangled Magic by Sophie Anderson, illustrated by Saara Soderlund

I really liked The House With Chicken Legs and I absolutely loved The Girl Who Speaks Bear, so I had high hopes for this one. Well, it didn’t quite manage to knock The Girl Who Speaks Bear off the top spot, but I still very much enjoyed it!

Olia lives in Castle Mila with her parents, new baby sister and grandmother, Babusya. Olia’s family provide a source of comfort and reassurance and a strong and loving base for her on her journey, as she grows to realise it is them and not the building she lives in that make a home.

I was particularly thrilled by her mum at the end of the book, as I know others will be too (but you’ll get no spoilers here!) and, again on a purely personal level, I was warmed to see a breast-feeding, baby-wearing mum in a book!

But it’s the relationship between Olia and her Babusya that’s the truly heart-warming thing here and her Babusya’s belief in her is, ultimately, key to Olia’s own gradual realisation that “Belief is one of the few things more powerful than magic.”

Olia’s Babusya is everything you’d expect from a grandmother in one of Sophie’s books – shrewd and wise but spritely of spirit and Olia’s partner in magical crime. She sees the castle’s spirits and feels its magic, and Olia is desperate to one day discover it too.

That day comes in less than cheery circumstances though as a huge storm threatens to destroy the castle and Olia must accompany the castle’s domovoi (house spirit) Felicks to the Land of Forbidden Magic in order to try and save her home.

Together they journey into the unknown, with setbacks and twists round every corner (right til the very end!) and the clock is ticking! Its one of those stories where just when you think you can breathe a sigh of relief, you’re biting your nails again.

Felicks made for a loyal and understanding companion on Olia’s travels. He had me as soon as he appeared from behind the kitchen stove (bringing with him echoes of The Moomims’ Ancestor) but it was Koshka I liked best in Olia’s new group of friends. Haughty, dry, mistrusting and impatient, we get glimpses of her fallibility and softer side too.

Along the way, they meet various other spirits and magical beings who can both help Olia on her quest, but need her help in return. Can they save both her home and theirs before it’s too late?

One of the key themes in the book is the making of mistakes and the idea that, as Olia’s Babusya puts it “everyone makes mistakes. In fact, to live is to make mistakes.” As someone who struggles with this, with past mistakes and prospective ones, this really resonated with me. But personal feelings aside, the idea that to make mistakes is not just acceptable but necessary, that it’s how we move on from them that matters, is one which all children should grow up with.

With a giant, tree spirits, flying feathered horses, a talking cat, water spirits, a maze, riddles, different, brilliantly crafted worlds, a land held together by enchanted thread, a magical sword, sinister floating cloak, a house with chicken legs (of course!), a giant head, friendships new and old, this is a truly spellbinding adventure.

There are many, many links to Russian folklore in this magical world and my only gripe (emphatically at myself, not at the story) is that it made this a frustratingly slow read as I kept stopping to look up characters and stories!

If anything this is simply testament to Sophie’s ability to create a modern spin on traditional tales and on her own knowledge and love of these, original stories.

I bought this after reading Sophie’s earlier books but still haven’t got round to it – this book has made me determined to read it soon!

I realise this has been a long, slightly rambling, more personal musings than helpful review, so I will attempt to end in a less meandering way.

This is yet another marvellously magical book from Sophie Anderson, with folk tales, friendship and family at its heart. With a cast of incredibly varied characters and both a castle and a magic world steeped in imagination, not to mention a quest which seems almost impossible, this is an exciting and immersive adventure that existing fans and new will love!

Peapod’s Picks – An Octopus, Some Whales, A Tiger, An Elephant, A Dinosaur … But definitely not a mouse in sight!

A rather belated Peapod’s Picks this week as I continue to struggle to find a new blog routine after going back to work!

But here we are.

There have been many books we’ve read in recent weeks (if you haven’t read our review of If I Had A Unicorn yet, this is still a firm favourite!) that should have been included in a Peapod’s Picks post, but it’d take too long to recap them all, so I’m going to talk about three (or really five?!) books that we’ve been reading over the past week.

First up Octopus Shocktopus by Peter Bently and Steven Lenton.

I’m so glad Peapod has taken to this and allowed it into our nightly bedtime reads basket, because I love it!

Written in bouncing, rhyming text and accompanied by bright and joyful illustrations with an eye-popping neon octopus at their core, this is the best sort of picture book – firm themes of friendship, acceptance and of the extraordinary and absurd, but not a hint of a moral or message. This is a story to simply delight in.

And we do.

A family find one day that an octopus has, taken up residence on top of their house. They’re a bit bemused and neighbour is less than convinced. But as they begin to involve the octopus in their daily lives – games of football, substitute washing line, DIY, garden slide, pet rescuer – they quickly come to live having it around and are bereft when it vanishes as suddenly as it arrived. Will it ever come back?

I love everything about this, especially the ending and Sid the baker. Peapod loves the teddy in the toilet tale (naturally) and we all love reading it.

We follow that with one that’s just as daft and just as brilliant.

The Whales on the Bus by Katrina Charman and Nick Sharratt.

To be sung to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus, there’s a whole host of animals travelling in various hilarious ways in here – from goats in boats to baboons in balloons to a dragon in a wagon!

Peapod loves the zooming bees on skis and laughs and laughs at the muddy sheep in the jeep and the poor splattered cow they pass.

I love listening to him sing the first verse (“whales bus round town…all day long”) and look forward to him picking up more of it.

I also love that I am absolutely NOT allowed to sing “ducks on trucks go quack, quack, beep” – if I sing it correctly I’m just met with a “noooooooo, mama!” and have to add an extra quack instead. Turns out in Peapod’s world tigers can fly gliders, and snakes can ice skate but ducks absolutely cannot beep a horn!

This is a great one to read together with lots of silliness, sound effects and laughter during the day and I can’t wait to read it at storytime when we’re eventually back up and running again too! Love it.

Next up I was going to post about ‘I Can Roar Like a Dinosaur’, the third book following a marvellous mouse who’s nothing of not sure of himself! But then I found I’d not posted about the two books that came before it and since we’ve been reading all three at bedtime, it seemed only right to feature them all together.

I Am a Tiger/I Am Not an Elephant/I Can Roar Like a Dinosaur by Karl Newson and Ross Collins

We loved I Am a Tiger, with a mouse who is convinced he’s a tiger, so convinced in fact that he manages to convince everyone else too…including tiger!

There’s some great “noooooooo!” opportunities in this – Peapod loves giggling as mouse assures us of his tiger-y-ness and the ending is just great!

I Am Not an Elephant sees Mouse having to convince the other animals not that he is something else, but that he definitely isn’t an elephant. Especially not a parping sm-elephant!

Of course Peapod loves the noises we can make reading this one, especially the parps and giant burp! But is it a burp…or a roar? Maybe mouse isn’t a mouse or a melon or a moose, but…

A dinosaur!

Mouse’s latest tale might just be our favourite of the three, as mouse tries to convince everyone he’s a dinosaur, teaches them to roar, calls a T-Rex a chicken then discovers he’s actually a bird! Phew!

Peapod loves doing the actions as mouse instructs the others on how to roar. He even ‘reads’ the book to us now: “arms, side-side, shake, teeth”! And this is another that will be great fun to read at storytime when it gets going again!

Peapod’s favourite thing about this book though is definitely the end pages showing mouse as a bird. He gets me to point to them all (and us, starting to do it himself, over-exaggerated shock and all!) saying “bird, bird, bird, bir-wah! That’s not a bird, that’s a mouse!” He laughs and laughs at this and I love it!

Across the Risen Sea

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

Across the Risen Sea by Bren Macdibble

I have been hooked on Bren’s books ever since reading How to Bee in 2018 (you can read my reviews of them here and here!) So I was thrilled when Louise from Bounce was able to get me an early copy of her newest book Across the Risen Sea (thank you, Louise!)

Like the two books before it, Across the Risen Sea has strong environmental themes, this time set in a world in which climate change has seen the seas rise and cause devastation to the land and the way we live.

Neoma, Jag and their close-knit community live gentle lives on their small island, using minimal technology and salvaging what they can from now uninhabitable buildings in the risen sea.

They are a fairly self-sufficient community, trading with other nearby islands when needed, but otherwise keeping to themselves. So when three strangers from the mysterious Valley of the Sun turn up one day, chopping down trees without so much as a hello, and installing a power source and strange flashing light hackles are raised and brows are furrowed.

As they try to find out what the light is, Neoma and Jag find themselves at the centre of a sudden and shocking discovery. When Jag is then taken by the Valley of the Sun, Neoma sets off on a perilous journey across the risen sea to bring him back.

This is a thoroughly gripping and utterly thrilling adventure with a main character who’s everything you’d want her to be and everything you’d expect from Bren’s books! Feisty and impulsive, but loyal and courageous with a real sense of fairness, Neoma will do whatever it takes to get her friend back, protect her home and stand up for what’s right.

Her dealings with ‘Uncle Croc’ are wonderful to read with just the right balance of fear, humour and unpredictability. Indeed, the Croc was one if my favourite things in the story.

And her encounters with a very large shark and the meanest pirate I’ve ever read about were gripping, nail-biting stuff.

Powerful and angry, I could feel the shark nudging the boat, flicking its tails, circling closer. A true force of nature, it made for heart-stopping reading.

And Pirate Bradshaw was the smartest, quickest, gnarliest and above all meanest pirate you can imagine. All knives and more lives than a cat – what a character she was!

Neoma’s destination, The Valley of the Sun, is shrouded in mystery and when she reaches it, it’s a thrill to explore it! A really marvellous and imaginative bit of world-building!

This was an exciting and dramatic rescue mission, a story of friendship, sticking together and community.

It was also, as Bren’s books always are, a gentle reminder to look after our world, a warning that we could lose it all just like that.

There is much to consider as we see the differing views and uses of technology and resources across different places in the book, as well as the way Neoma’s community no longer use money, reverting to trading, bartering and collaboration.

There is also a strong message about how we deal with disagreements and differing opinions, ways of life and ideas. Marta from Neoma’s village could certainly teach our politicians a thing or two about respect, tolerance and understanding!

Another fantastic book from one of my favourite authors of recent years, bringing together climate change, community and courage in a thoroughly enjoyable adventure across the risen sea.