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?

Advertisements

WWW Wednesday 2/1/19

Hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’, every Wednesday is ‘WWW Wednesday’:

What are you currently reading?

The Missing Barbegazi by H. A. Norup (cover design by Anna Morrison)

I started this on the day the story itself starts,though I didn’t quite have the same snowy mountain setting as the book! But it is a great read for winter and one I’m really enjoying!

What have you just finished reading?

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson (cover illustration by Rachel Vale)

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!)

Imaginative, magical 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. Such a unique idea and brilliantly described – so tangible and memorable. It made me want to go in and explore them!

What are you planning on reading next?

As ever – I don’t know! I posted here about my reading goals for this year, so part of me wants to get off to a flying start on that with a classic or some non fiction. But I have both Angie Thomas and Jess Butterworth’s new ones calling too. Not to mention the huge TBR pile…

What do you think – what should I choose? Have you read any of the books here? What are you reading at the moment?

WWW Wednesday 12/12/18

Hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’, every Wednesday is ‘WWW Wednesday’:

What are you currently reading?

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson. I’ve only just started it, but I’m loving her writing style and the magic in the book. Plus, I just love the whole idea of the snowglobes.

What have you just finished reading?

I’ve finally read Wundersmith! Jessica Townsend’s follow up to the brilliant Nevermoor is just as imaginative and ‘wunder’-full (couldn’t resist!) as the first and I’m. Now impatiently waiting for book 3! Full review to follow.

What are you planning on reading next?

I’m stuck! On the one hand I still have a gazillion MG books I really want to read waiting for me to get to them – The Train to Impossible Places, Sky Circus, The Missing Barbegazi and so, so, SO many others.

On the other hand, I have some brilliant YA and adult books clamouring to be read to – Angie Thomas’ new one, On the Come Up, and Marcus Zusak’s Bridge of Clay especially.

And on the other hand again (yeah, three hands. And what of it?!), I keep promising myself a re-read of Harry Potter and what better time than Christmas?!

What do you think – what should I choose? Have you read any of the books here? What are you reading at the moment?

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!

Mini Mondays

As I may have mentioned (you know, just once or twice..) I’m finding it hard to find enough time to read, let alone review anything since Peapod made his entrance into the world.

Last week, I saw this post from BookBairn and it gave me the idea of ‘Mini Mondays’ – can’t promise I’ll manage it every week, but I’m going to try!

mini mondays

So every (most/some) Monday(s) I’ll do a ‘Mini Mondays’ review post where I’ll try and give a briefer than usual (cheer here) review of a few books. If you fancy doing your own Mini Monday reviews, leave a link in the comments (feel free, but don’t feel obliged, to use my rather amateurish little logo thing!) 🙂

This week…

20180924_165312

First Facts and Flaps: Giant Dinosaurs, illustrated by Naray Yoon

Campbell’s range of board books are always a hit – bright and bold, informative, with just the right amount of text and plenty of interactive features this is no different.

Each Dino is introduced with a full page illustration and rhyme, with lots of short, simply-worded, interesting and unusual facts clearly laid out on the facing page, accompanied by bold subheadings to draw you in.

There’s plenty to keep young fingers busy too with flaps to lift, a wheel to turn and change the pictures with and a brilliant fold out spread at the back.

Fun and engaging, with attractive illustrations with just the right level of detail – this is a fabulous book for young dinosaur fans. There’s an Amazing Animals in the series too, which I’ll definitely be picking up and hopefully there’ll be others to follow!

Thanks to Macmillan Kids for my copy.

All About Families by Felicity Brooks

With cheerful, detailed and appealing illustrations from Mar Ferrero and a clear, uncluttered layout, this is a lovely look at families in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Both in illustration and text, care has been taken to make this a truly diverse and inclusive book. Not only does it feature a wide range of family set ups but people from all walks of life – there’ll be someone in here that every reader relates to.

Good use of labels, speech bubbles and captions crams in plenty of clear, concise information in an engaging way that stops it from feeling overloaded.

Perfect for ks1 ‘about me’/’family’ topics or PSHE work, as well as a great resource to encourage talk (the pictures alone give a wealth of things to chat about) when read independently at school or shared at home.

Thanks to Usborne for my copy.

Oi Duck-Billed Platypus by Kes Gray and Jim Field

If you don’t already know how much I love this series, see this post on Oi Cat! I was so excited for this 4th installment and was a fan before it even arrived (it’s pink and it has a platypus in!) Even better – I won my copy (thanks Hachette Kids!)

Here we meet a selection of animals with very hard to rhyme names causing quite the headache for Frog, Dog and Cat as they dish out the rules on where everyone should sit! With the usual combination of Jim Field’s characterful illustrations and Kes Gray’s hilarious text, it’s as clever, fast and funny as the first 3 and an exuberant addition to one of my favourite picture book series.

Grandma Bird by Benji Davies

Benji Davies is another author/illustrator I love (I thought I’d reviewed his last picture book ‘The Grotlyn’ but haven’t – such an oversight, it’s wonderful!) His newest book, Grandma Bird, is a return to Noi (of The Storm Whale)’s world and is just as gentle, cosy and warm as both Storm Whale books.

Noi is off to stay with Grandma (who is fantastic – she’s guaranteed to make you smile!) on her tiny, isolated island. With imagination, freedom, wild adventure, dark caves and island life, this is a hug of a book full of accepting things we’re unsure of and of friendship, love and family.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for my copy!

Into the Jungle: Stories for Mowgli

First published almost 125 years ago, the combination of the wild world, freedom and adventure in The Jungle Book mean it is just as appealing today as it was then. And that writing a ‘companion’ for it would be no easy task.

Luckily, Katherine Rundell is more than up to the task. Already a huge fan of her writing and the way it captures perfectly a scene, a mood, a character… and knowing from her last book The Explorer how well she can conjure up the jungle, I had no doubts she’d bring The Jungle Book roaring to life in Into the Jungle.

9781509822317

Charming and compelling origin stories for all Kipling’s best-known characters, from Baloo and Shere Khan to Kaa and Bagheera. As Mowgli travels through the Indian jungle, this brilliantly visual tale will make readers both laugh and cry. 

Firstly, this is going to be an absolutely stunning book. I received an ARC which included samples of Kristjana Williams’ sumptuous illustrations and they are as rich and vivid as Katherine Rundell’s text. Put together in a hardback edition, this is going to be a beautiful gift of a book.

This is a wonderful series of five stories, as told to Mowgli as he makes his way through the jungle (trying to evade Mother Wolf and the telling off he thinks is coming!) Each story is narrated by one of the animals and tells the backstory of one of the others, with the stories giving a brilliant new depth to each of the characters, while at the same time staying true to Kipling’s original depictions of them.

Mother Wolf’s story is one of the reckless invincibility of youth, female ferocity, loyalty and love. Bagheera’s solemn, often solitary nature is perfectly explained by his story – one of loss, freedom and the ways of the wild. Kaa’s story was the most surprising to me, while Baloo’s was without a doubt my absolute favourite of the bunch – a story of intelligence, courage, defying expectations and challenging preconceptions. While Shere Khan doesn’t have his own chapter, his story also threads through the book and, like Baloo’s, is one of the ones that I enjoyed most.

Mowgli’s own character – one of a typical child: selfish, blunt and arrogant at times; carefree, mischievous and friendly at others, but always full of life – is gradually drawn from each of these encounters before the final chapter shows just how much of life, loyalty, courage and respect he has learned from his jungle family.

These individual stories weave together as the book progresses to create the central plot of the book, which has a much more modern feel to it, despite still being rooted in the characters and events of the original. It is an exciting, colourful and cleverly woven tale, in which quick-thinking, creativity and teamwork make for a dramatic and gripping finale. It has all the ingredients needed to be a hit with young readers today, whether they are familiar with the original or not.

Important messages about diversity and celebrating differences, as well as the impact of man on nature, run through the book too and are written into the story in the very best way: it’s not at all shouty, preachy or shoe-horned in, but it makes the points in no uncertain terms that, as Bagheera finds: “To be alive is to be wild and various.”

Full of warmth, humour and life, and perfectly complemented by beautiful, bold illustrations – this is an adventure for all ages. Those familiar with Kipling’s Jungle Book will relish the chance to delve deeper into some of our favourite characters, and for those unfamiliar with the original this is a perfect introduction to whet the appetite or a thoroughly enjoyable stand alone story bursting with jungle life.

Kat Wolfe Investigates

So, before I start this review, a confession: until I received a copy of this to review (thanks to Macmillan), I’d never read Lauren St John.

There, I’ve said it. I knew how talented she was rumoured to be, how much of a mainstay in teacher recommends and class libraries, and how popular with many of the young readers I meet in work. But, despite being on my list of authors to catch up on for sometime, I’d just never got round to it. So, Kat Wolfe was my introduction, and what a pleasing introduction it was.

9781509871223

Kat Wolfe loves her new home in idyllic Bluebell Bay, especially since it comes with a resident wildcat.

But when she starts pet-sitting for pocket money, she finds that beneath the town’s surface lie some dark and dangerous secrets…

This is sure to be a wildly popular new “middle-grade” series: it has a whole zoo’s worth  of animals (from cats and dogs to parrots and capuchins to horses and wild cats); a seemingly idyllic seaside town (and we all know that when a book features a peaceful, close-knit and crime-free setting it’s going to mean plenty of crime, daring and action!); two enterprising, clever and determined female lead characters (Wolfe and Lamb – love it!!) plus a wonderful ‘supporting cast’ including Edith – an ex-librarian and armchair adventurer extraordinaire (loved her!); plenty of shady characters to cast suspicions on and a healthy dose of tech to bring it smack up to date.

And that is one of the best things about the book: it has the feel and old-fashioned charm of a classic mystery adventure, but with a sassy coding genius as one half of the detecting duo and plenty of hi-tech gadgetry and plot twists to plant it firmly in the now.

It’s sure to be a hit with fans of both other mystery/detective series (think Enid Blyton re-routed via Lauren Child’s Ruby Redfort) and animal lovers too – any fans of Jess Butterworth’s ‘When the Mountains Roared’ or Gill Lewis’ animal-based books are sure to love this series.

I also read the author’s note at the end of the story with great interest: Lauren St John’s experience with animals and journalism, and the wealth of knowledge gleaned from both have clearly informed her writing; the amount of the story that was rooted in true stories was fascinating – as she points out fact is often stranger than fiction!

This background knowledge and research show in the gradually increasing complications in the investigation: starting out as a seemingly simple missing person, the plot as they say soon thickens, and we’re faced with a a multi-layered case involving an ever-widening range of puzzles, problems and of course – suspects!