Mini Monday: 7/1/19

Kicking off 2019 with three snowy books (maybe it will bring the actual snow!)*

*The last of these reviews is a tweaked and slightly expanded version of one from WWW Wednesday last week – you can always skip it if you saw it first time round!

First up…

There’s a Yeti in the Playground by Pamela Butchart

Illustrated by Thomas Flintham

It’s snowing and Izzy and friends are hoping they’ll all be sent home early. But then they hear weird noises in the playground, and find a big footprint in the snow… And that’s when they know! There’s a YETI in the playground and it’s HUNGRY!

The young readers in work LOVE these books and it’s easy to see why with plots, plans and action aplenty – not to mention huge dollops of humour that adults will love too.

As a former infant teacher, so much of this made me properly laugh out loud – both supremely silly and totally believable at the same time! Anyone who’s ever been in a school will find plenty of familiar faces, recognisable rules and everyday events here, but bigger, bolder and funnier!

Snow, survival skills and being stuck in school – not to mention a seriously stinky scent! This is observational humour at its best – larger than life and laugh out loud!

Thanks to Nosy Crow for my copy.

The Missing Barbegazi by H. S. Norup

Cover design by Anna Morrison

Tessa knows that the Barbegazi exist because her beloved grandfather told her about them. So she sets out to prove to her family and friends that her grandfather wasn’t just a confused old man. But Tessa realises that uncovering the truth carries great responsibilities.

This was set on the ski slopes of Austria and is a great example of an author really knowing and loving their setting. It’s clearly well-loved territory, fondly described with little touches of the familiar that help to paint the picture for those of us who have never touched a ski!

Likewise, I enjoyed the fact that it was written from both Tessa and Gawion’s perspectives and the addition of the pages from the guide to Alpine elves was a really interesting and unusual way to add background information and detail.

With themes of friendship, loss and trust as well as protecting the environment and knowing when to keep a secret, this is a story of unlikely allegiances, cunning plots to foil the bad guy, wintry landscapes and daring late night escapades this is a great adventure, perfect for fans of Lauren St John’s Kat Wolfe Investigates or Jess Butterworth’s When The Mountains Roared.

Thanks to Pushkin for my copy.

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson

Cover illustration by Rachel Vale

Clementine discovers a mysterious house full of snowglobes, each containing a trapped magician. One of these is Dylan, a boy who teases her in the real world but who is now desperate for her help.

So Clem embarks on a mission to release Dylan and the other magicians, unknowingly unleashing a struggle for power that will put not only her family, but the future of magic itself in danger.

I finished reading this on Christmas Day. I think this is the first Christmas Day I’ve managed to read since I was little! It was lovely (even if I did have to read stood up!) and the magical feel of this book was perfectly suited to it!

I really enjoyed the characters of Ganymede, Io and Clem especially and the way strong emotions are portrayed and played out through the magic of the book worked really well.

But what I really loved were the magical elements of the book and the world building – so imaginative and exciting.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m still marvelling at the Snowglobes and the setting – at the worlds within a world within a world. The whole concept was such a unique idea and brilliantly described – so tangible and memorable. It made me want to go in and explore!

Thanks to Macmillan for my copy.

Have you read any of these – what did you think?

What are your favourite wintry or snowy books?

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Picklewitch and Jack

As part of my quest to read more younger chapter books as well as ‘MG’, I requested a copy of this from Faber (who very kindly obliged – thank you!) and it’s safe to say I’m thrilled I did as it’s become one of my favourite books of the year.

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Picklewitch lives in a tree at the bottom of the garden. She has a nose for naughtiness, a mind for mischief and a weakness for cake. And unluckily for brainbox and all-round-goody-two-shoes Jack (who’s just moved in) she’s about to choose him as her new best friend… Jack is in for a whole lot of trouble!

I can’t tell you how much I love this book. Rather than reminding me of any specific book from when I was little, it brought back the feeling I got from reading the very best of them. The ones I loved. That indescribable buzz of a book that just seems to have got everything spot on.

The language for a start. Not too simple or patronising, nor over the top, it’s just right for younger readers The descriptions are wonderfully atmospheric and lively, conjuring up thunderstorms and wild gardens, trying to sleep in a spooky old house and, of course, delicious cakes. The way in which the blossoming friendship between Jack and Picklewitch is described – its complications, and Jack’s frustration and confusion in particular are depicted brilliantly.

The pace is perfectly matched to Picklewitch’s particular brand of chaos – the rollercoaster-like build and scream of it each time Jack moves from feeling relieved to realising something’s not quite right to…uh-oh! And all the while, cleverly dropping in the growing realisation that Picklewitch might be trouble with a capital T but she’s also desperate to be a friend with a capital F.

Which brings us to the characters. It would be easy to dislike a character like Jack – always well behaved, incredibly clever and something of a perfectionist – he has the potential to be boring at best and irritating at worst. Luckily, he’s neither, and his uncertainty about the not-so-black-and-white world of friendship and his earnest efforts to address it are very endearing too.

And then, of course, there’s Picklewitch. Even her name is fantastic – just say it and try not to smile. A tornado of trouble with an enormous heart, an insatiable appetite for cake and confidence enough for two, she is simply wonderful. Everyone should have a Picklewitch in their life.

The glossary of Picklewitch words, as well as her jokes and spells added in at the end of the story was joyous too!

And if all that wasn’t enough on its own, Teemu Juhani’s busy, fun and full illustrations capture the essence of Picklewitch and the feel of the story splendidly.

There will never be a shortage of witch books, especially for this age group, but this truly stands out from the crowd – a madcap tale of friendship and fun – it really is the kipper’s knickers!

Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent

Hubert Horatio: How to Raise Your Grown Ups

I first read about Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent almost 15 years ago when the picture book above was released.

I was (and still am) a huge Lauren Child fan – her books felt (and still feel) like something different: the illustrations, style and design; the vocabulary, language and phrasing.

So when I heard there was going to be a longer book featuring Hubert Horatio I was very excited. I was lucky enough to receive my copy from HarperCollins in exchange for this honest review.

Fans of Lauren Child will undoubtedly love this, but there’s plenty for newcomers to her work too. Likewise, there is plenty to appeal to both young readers and parents (and everyone in between!)

Hubert’s role as the sensible, clever and responsible child in a hopelessly well-meaning but incapable family, the ways he’s saved his own life on countless occasions and his ongoing feud with Elliot Snidgecombe in the overgrown zip-wired, trip-wired garden next door will appeal to youngsters, while the complications of family trees, family visits…in fact family in general and Hubert’s pragmatic approach to his will generate many a smile from parents.

One of the things I always love about Lauren Child’s books is that she doesn’t talk down to her readers: nothing is simplified or omitted because of a potential reader’s age; the vocabulary selected is always interesting, challenging and very playful.

Likewise, the look of the book is unmistakably hers, with the detailed images and layout serving just as large a role in telling the story as the text. It has her trademark collage style, with numbers, text, print and drawing colliding to provide lively, stylish and varied pages – the images and design alone could hold my interest without reading a word, she is one of my favourite illustrators.

A universally appealing book that is funny, clever and a real visual treat – one for all the family! I look forward to the next installment!

The Beasts of Grimheart

When the first Five Realms book, The Legend of Podkin One-Ear, was announced as Children’s Book of the Month way back in June 2017 I wasn’t sure. But, as it was Book of the Month, I read it anyway and I am SO GLAD I did!

I was absolutely hooked from the get go and book two, The Gifts of Dark Hollow, was just as good (so good that I forgot to take it to work with me mid-read so bought it again on my lunch break as I couldn’t wait to keep reading!) and left me waiting with bated breath for this one:

As with the first two, both the cover (Fernando López Juárez) and interior (David Wyatt) illustrations are stunning and perfectly matched to the book. The cover had me so excited about what this installment would bring and felt so in keeping with the story so far, while David Wyatt’s soft pencil sketches inside are full of detail and atmosphere.

The story itself picks up where The Gifts of Dark Hollow left us:

The bard and and his young apprentice Rue are taken to Spinestone, the temple warren of the bonedancers. It is here that the bard is ordered to retell the tale that has got him in so much trouble . . . and so to the next instalment in the astonishing tale of Podkin One-Ear . . . Podkin, Paz and Pook once again find their home under threat, but this time they are ready to fight!

It is, like the first two books, told through the tales of this travelling bard, which is inspired and works wonderfully. The majority of the book is his telling of Podkin’s ‘legendary’ adventure, we are simultaneously told his story through odd chapters set in the present day.

The old characters are back and there are some interesting new faces too – I particularly liked meeting the Guardians, I thought they were so imaginatively described and Pook’s counterpart Pocka made for lots of fun (I can’t help but wonder if we haven’t seen the last of him just yet either…) I loved reading more about the Bonedancers too and David Wyatt’s illustration of them was spot on.

The relationship between the three siblings – Podkin, Paz and Pook – has always been well-depicted with plenty of humour and warmth, and it is lovely to see how Podkin, particularly, is growing and changing with each book. And, of course, there’s the rest of the old gang too. There’s a part of the book that describes the rabbits from Dark Hollow as:

“…a tatty lot…made up of all sorts… Every colour of fur, every length of hair and shape of ears… It would be easy to look down on them… But Podkin believed they had something no other tribe had… Every rabbit was welcome at Dark Hollow, no questions asked.”

and, alongside the strong, positive message of inclusion and togetherness that is evident both here and throughout the books in general, it’s this quality that endears the group to me – Crom, Brigid, Mish and Mash…not to mention Podkin, Paz and Pook of course!

The world-building in the series as a whole is fantastic, and this instalment is no exception. I’m always completely transported to the centre of the action, whether that be a warm and busy warren, the bonedancer’s temple or the heart of the forest.

There’s a particularly well-written battle which pulls no punches and makes no attempt to hide the sorrows and losses of war. It’s quite a skill to depict a battle in this way – on the one hand exciting and nail-bitingly tense, on the other senseless, confusing and sad, and all the while remaining firmly age-appropriate

This series has it all – magic, adventure and folklore, as well as danger, humour and hope by the bucketload. If you haven’t read it yet, start with book one (The Legend of Podkin One Ear)- you’ll be clamouring for more as soon as you’ve finished! And if you have read the first two, you’ll be as enthralled as ever by book three. Personally, I’m already getting impatient for book four!

Thanks to Faber Children’s for my copy.

Mini Monday: 5/11/18

mini mondays

Mini Mondays are my attempt to get everything reviewed even while drowning in nappies, washing and milk! Shorter than usual but hopefully still enough to give a flavour of the books!

This week I’ve been playing catch up with short ‘early reader’ chapter books.

These are often the books that fall by the wayside in my attempts to read as much as possible for work. This year, I made an effort to read more Teen/YA and – while I could probably read more of those still – next year my aim is to read more of these ‘first’ chapter books.

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Bee Boy: Attack of the Zombees by Tony De Saulles

Following Bee Boy: Clash of the Killer Queens  – which never fails to give me this earworm: https://youtu.be/1Ti2P_z5IPw

Meet Melvin, a boy who keeps bees on the roof of his tower block (incidentally, I love that he lives in a flat) and occasionally turns into one! It’s up to him, best friend Priti and new boy Berty to solve the mystery of a strange sickness that’s hit their fellow pupils.

This series cleverly turns facts about bees and the environmental issues affecting them into the centre of a funny, fast-paced plot.

With a fun yellow and black themed cartoon-like design, there’s a dastardly uncle, giant plants, cunning spies, bucket loads of bodily fluids and, of course, killer zom’bees’! This is a fun-filled, action-packed adventure kids will love.

Isadora Moon Makes Winter Magic

The incredibly popular Isadora Moon is back in a new wintry adventure, in her characteristic sparkly pink and black design.

With a nod to The Snowman, Isadora builds a Snow Boy from magic snow – he comes to life and they have a lovely time until he starts to melt!

With fairy ice palaces, magic snow, ice skating, a frozen feast and a flying snow-sleigh this is a book with plenty of winter magic to capture the imagination!

As an added bonus, there’s recipes, crafts, quizzes and more at the back of the book too – plenty to do over the Christmas holidays!

The Legend of Kevin by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

I’ve saved the best for last! I LOVED this and can’t wait to read more from this pair.

Kevin is a roly poly flying pony and Sarah McIntyre has brought him to life brilliantly – he’s quite the character. Plus, his favourite food is biscuits so he’s obviously a good sort!

This is full of fun – a slightly silly adventure written with a dry, almost matter of fact tone that makes it immensely readable and enjoyable.

When a flood hits Max’s town, its up to him and his new friend Kevin to save the day!

With stylish mermaids and an underwater hair salon, stinky sea monkeys and a near miss with a shark, shopping in swimming trunks and sea-faring guinea pigs, not to mention the headteacher stuck on the school roof there is imagination, absurdity and laughs by the bucket load.

Kids will love this, but adults reading it with them will too thanks to the voice and style of the writing. The illustrations are full of life and detail – the mermaids in the hair salon is a brilliant example of just how much of a story can be told through its images – and in a story of this level particularly, quality illustrations that can do that are vital. These are more than up to the job.

I am really hoping we’ll see more of Beyonce and Neville in the future too!

Have you read any of these?

Which other ‘early’ chapter books would you recommend? 

Peapod’s Picks: Voices

I’m going to try and post a a Peapod’s Picks every Friday, or at least alternate Fridays. They’ll be picture, board or cloth books – some old, some new – that we’ve enjoyed or are looking forward to.

This week: ‘doing the voices’

Before I go any further, I should point out that despite by all accounts being a fairly accomplished reader of stories, capable of keeping even the wriggliest entertained, I am RUBBISH at voices. I’m no good at accents and I forget who sounds like what halfway through.

As I mentioned last week Peapod has a story as part of his bedtime routine. Actually he has two most nights – one read by me and one read by Daddy.

As I also mentioned, at (nearly) 8 weeks old he’s still far too little to know what we’re reading, let alone whether or not we’re ‘doing the voices’. I on the other hand am seemingly less forgiving…

It all began with The Dark by Lemony Snickett and Jon Klassen (As quirky as you’d expect from this pair – humorous, reassuring and creepy all at once!)

“I want to show you something,” Daddy read.

“What kind of voice is that?!” Mummy chortled.

“It’s a voice as creaky as the roof of the house and as smooth and cold as the windows!”

We were crying laughing trying to read this and find a voice that sounded quite like that!

Then, we read ‘Dave’s Cave’ and ‘Dave’s Rock’ by Frann Preston-Gannon. (Simply told stories, brilliantly brought to life by the illustrations and carefully selected text – Dave is instantly loveable and the stories are warm and funny – I would love to see more adventures from Dave!)

” Is Dave a Cockney Caveman?!” enquired Mummy between giggles.

” I’ve gone for League of Gentlemen…”

Cue yet more hilarity as we attempted to perfect Dave’s caveman voice!

And tonight we’re reading ‘A New Home for a Pirate’ by Ronda Armitage and Holly Swain (think The Smartest Giant in Town meets Room on the Broom – brilliantly under-rated) It features both pirates and farmers…need I say more?!

Do you ‘do the voices’ when reading aloud – do you have have any books you particularly enjoy doing? Or any you hope won’t be requested?!

WWW Wednesday: 12/9/18

Hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’,  every Wednesday we ask and answer the 3 W’s:

WWW WednesdaysI’ve missed the last few weeks – newborns are time consuming! – and I’m definitely not getting through books at my usual rate (goodbye evening read before bed!) but I’m just about surfacing again! Posts and reviews are likely to continue to be sporadic, but we’ll do what we can!

What are you currently reading?

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I started Piers Torday’s ‘The Lost Magician’ at the start of the week and I am loving it so far! Set in post-war Salisbury, it’s a fresh twist on the Narnia tale – no wardrobe here tough, but a library leading 4 siblings into a magical world of Reads and Unreads. It finds a perfect balance between a feeling of nostalgia and time gone by but with a fresh and modern feel to the writing. My favourite things about it so far have to be Larry and Grey Bear: “Grey Bear nodded, with the help of Larry’s hand.”

What have you just finished reading?

I finished The Trouble With Perfect by Helena Duggan earlier in the week, it’s the sequel to the wonderful A Place Called Perfect.

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I have to say I enjoyed book one more – just that little bit darker, creepier and with what felt like a slightly higher action:dialogue ratio. Trouble was still thoroughly enjoyable – with a mechanical mutant zombie, evil twins, chemical clouds and kidnappings it will be a sure-fire hit with younger readers. Full review to follow.

What has Peapod read this week?

Ok, I need to amend my WWW Wednesday to WWWW Wednesday since I’ve snuck an extra W in there now! Peapod and I are just starting to manage a story most days, and usually a board or cloth book too if he’s awake and in a good mood for long enough! This week, we’ve been reading:

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My Animals by Xavier Deneux (board book) – high contrast black and white images for little eyes with fab little peepholes on each page teasing a glimpse of the next animal make it one that will last as he gets bigger too. This is probably my favourite of his black and white books.

Baby Lit Les Miserables (board books) – A new addition to our Baby Lit collection, with images from the story and words and phrases in English and French. We bought this as a present for Daddy as he loves Les Mis and my Francophile friend will also be getting a copy in the post for her little boy!

Sneak a Peek Colours (board book) – with bright, bold patterned pages I love this colours board book. Peapod ‘s mind was pretty much blown by the mirror at the end too – win, win.

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Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers (picture book) – a classic – I suspect we’ll be making our way through a lot of Oliver Jeffers in the coming years, but the short, simple text of the ‘little boy’ stories (Up and Down, Lost and Found, How to Catch a Star) make them perfect for now (plus these are some of my favourite Oliver Jeffers books) I love the humour of Up and Down and the friendship between the boy and penguin is so touching too.

Mopoke by Philip Bunting (picture book) Another book that just really tickles me: short and simple with clever word play that adults will love as much as if not more than) the kids! I thought I’d reviewed it on here, but it seems I haven’t – how I’ve let that happen I don’t know! A full review will follow…

How To Lose A Lemur by Frann Preston-Gannon – Frann Preston-Gannon is such a hidden gem of an author-illustrator, not nearly shouted about enough! I love lemurs s this ticked a lot of boxes for me. Gannon takes us on a heart-warming journey of a reluctant friendship complete with hot air balloons, bikes, trains, mountains, oceans and…LEMURS! Love it (and so does Peapod!)

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What are you planning on reading next?

I never know until I finish my current read and see what I fancy, but I’ve got SO much to choose from at the moment! These are probably the top contenders, but it could all change!

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Which would you choose?

Have you read any of the books I’ve read this week? What are you reading at the moment?